Liquid crystalline (LC) materials are unique in the sense that they combine the mechanical properties of solids with the ease of manipulation of liquids. This unusual behaviour makes these materials extremely useful for the development of responsive systems, in which the physical features should be easily switched. LC materials have been traditionally successfully applied in LC displays, which are found in for example most television screens. However, they have recently attracted even more attention as actuating devices, in which their switchability leads to macroscopic changes with wide application potential from adaptive coatings to soft robotics.
Prof. dr. Dick Broer, full professor Stimuli-responsive Functional Materials and Devices, dept of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry
Dr. Michael Debije, associate professor Stimuli-responsive Functional Materials and Devices, dept of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry
Dr. Danqing Liu, assistant professor Stimuli-responsive Functional Materials and Devices, dept of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry
Prof. dr. Albert Schenning, full professor Stimuli-responsive Functional Materials and Devices, dept of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry
Dr. Johan Lub, external adviser Stimuli-responsive Functional Materials and Devices, dept of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry
Mechanical Engineering: device design and assessment of properties
Prof. dr. Henk Nijmeijer, full professor Dynamics and Control, dept of Mechanical Engineering
Dr. Alexander Pogromsky, associate professor Dynamics and Control, dept. of Mechanical Engineering
Prof. dr.ir. Jaap den Toonder, full professor Microsystems, dept of Mechanical Engineering
Organic chemistry: molecular design and synthesis:
Prof. dr. Bert Meijer, full professor Macro-organic Chemistry, dept of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry and Biomedical Engineering.
Dr. Ghislaine Vantomme, assistant professor of Macro-organic Chemistry, dept of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry
The capability of liquid crystal (LC) polymer networks to morph and change properties has led to a variety of new features, such as self-cleaning coatings for dust mitigation, fingerprints that alter their height for haptics, thin films that secrete liquid on-demand and exchange chemicals, objects that oscillate and perform work for actuators, devices that walk as soft robots or act like windmills, merely powered by light. Based on the LC technology a successful TU/e spin-off, Peer+, was created with a focus on Smart Energy Glass. These are just a few examples of achievements that the team brought to reality by controlling the properties of LC materials. The TU/e team has been a pioneer in this field, starting a few decades ago with applications in LC displays, globally commercialized for television screens. Based on strong fundamental understanding of LCs, in combination with great creativity and scientific excellence, they have initiated an entire new field of responsive materials boosting science and with high potential to generate business. TU/e is internationally recognized for its frontrunner role in this field. Their work inspired a large number of colleagues throughout the world. Besides, the team works toward commercial application, for example via the Device Integrated Responsive Materials (DIRM) initiative together with South China Normal University. Soft robotics and adaptive coatings are only two examples that will benefit tremendously from this unique class of materials.
The innovations achieved by the team have only become possible because of the longstanding, intimate collaboration between scientists from chemistry, materials science, and mechanical engineering. Understanding how to translate properties from the molecular to the macroscopic scale only works when researchers along the chain of knowledge are actively involved. Typically, dynamics on molecular level as in molecular motors are amplified by the coordinated order of the LC network to dimensions that are tangible, which requires knowledge on all the aspects of materials’ chemistry, physics, mechanics and even device application. The team has furthermore demonstrated a high level of collegiality; they all have great admiration for each other’s expertise, which is indeed also of international top level within their own disciplines. They are also bound by a unique combination of creativity and effectiveness; the team is able to design fascinating devices and is subsequently highly focused in realizing these plans. This has made the team highly productive and impactful. Furthermore, the team forms a great environment for talented researchers to further develop. This brings together experience with novel insights and has ensured the sustained creativity and productiveness of this excellent group of scientists, which are a role model team for TU/e.