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Biological systems exhibit a hierarchy of dynamic, complex, and vital life functions. The ability to sense, report and regulate distinct events, often with exquisite spatial and temporal control, form a central component of these machineries. Inspired by the need to realize the dynamic functionalities of biological systems within synthetic constructs, recent studies have demonstrated the potential utility of liquid crystals (LCs) as the basis for a new class of smart, autonomous, and stimuli-responsive soft materials. 

The structural characteristics of these materials resemble the liquid crystalline phases that are routinely encountered in variety of biological systems. Their inherent anisotropic features along with their elasticity, and responsiveness to externally applied fields or interfacial events underlie groundbreaking advances, such as flat panel displays, and more recently, LC-based chemical/biological sensors. Central to this ability of LCs to respond to external cues, is the concept of surface anchoring which arises from the LC’s interactions with a given surface. The relatively weak LC elastic forces often permit a local change in anchoring, caused by the reorganization of LC molecules, in response to interfacial events. Guided by these observations, one of the areas of interest in our group involves the engineering of distinct modes of transient activity at LC interfaces, to generate programmed responses mimicking the unique sensing and regulating characteristics of complex biological systems.

Smart, autonomous colloidal transport and delivery using liquid crystals (LCs)

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