Liquid crystals with patterned molecular orientation as an electrolytic active medium


Transport of fluids and particles at the microscale is an important theme in both fundamental and applied science. One of the most successful approaches is to use an electric field, which requires the system to carry or induce electric charges. We describe a versatile approach to generate electrokinetic flows by using a liquid crystal (LC) with surface-patterned molecular orientation as an electrolyte. The surface patterning is produced by photoalignment. In the presence of an electric field, the spatially varying orientation induces space charges that trigger flows of the LC. The active patterned LC electrolyte converts the electric energy into the LC flows and transport of embedded particles of any type (fluid, solid, gaseous) along a predesigned trajectory, posing no limitation on the electric nature (charge, polarizability) of these particles and interfaces. The patterned LC electrolyte exhibits a quadratic field dependence of the flow velocities; it induces persistent vortices of controllable rotation speed and direction that are quintessential for micro- and nanoscale mixing applications.

Publication Title

Physical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics