Apr 14 2021

Colloquium: Prof. Helen Gleeson

Physics Colloquium Lecture

April 14, 2021

3:00 PM - 4:00 PM


Zoom Link (see below)


Chicago, IL 60612

Host: Prof. James Unwin

Prof. Helen Gleeson OBE
University of Leeds, UK


From cat skin to submarines –soft materials that are a bit of a stretch.


Liquid crystals are a type of soft matter perhaps best known for their use in displays (LCDs) and much of the research in the area over the past 30 years or so has been focused on achieving faster switching and more complex images in flat panel TVs. However, such technology is now mature and for some time now new, exciting properties of liquid crystals that might lead to rather futuristic applications have been emerging.

This talk concentrates on the physics of liquid crystal elastomers. These materials are rubbers formed from liquid crystal units that have remarkable properties because of the interaction of the polymer network with the ordered liquid crystal units.  Suggested applications include artificial irises, self-cleaning surfaces for solar panels and artificial muscles. Thin films of these materials have been shown to lift many times their own weight. We recently discovered a completely new physical property in liquid crystal elastomers - auxetic behaviour – whereby the material gets thicker when stretched rather than thinner. This is a property shared with cat skin and the proposed meta-acoustic properties are of potential use in submarines. Our initial understanding of the physics of the auxetic behaviour and some potential applications are described.

The Department of Physics Colloquium will be held via Zoom




Physics Office

Date posted

Feb 4, 2021

Date updated

Apr 8, 2021