Research Fellows Directory
Dr Verena Gortz
I am exploring the unique properties of smart, soft materials with self-organising properties. This research combines aspects of liquid crystal, polymer and small particles science.
Liquid crystals are best known for their application in liquid crystal displays, such as in LCD-TVs or mobile phones. They are intermediate in nature between a liquid and a crystalline solid, uniquely combining the fluidity of liquids with some of the optical properties of crystals. Liquid crystals, therefore, have the ability to visually respond to small external stimuli, such as the presence of different surfaces or the application of electric fields. The exceptional combination of fluidity with a collective, self-organising behaviour of molecules is also central to many aspects of biological systems. It is this liquid-crystallinity of many biological materials that enables the amplification of changes on a molecular level, for example, at cell surfaces, and therefore the sensing and transmission of information over larger length scales.
The fascinating prospect of my research is to develop smart materials by incorporating and confining liquid-crystallinity into small elastic polymer beads with sizes ranging from hundreds of nanometres to tens of micrometres. This approach exploits the softness, elasticity and surface functionality of polymer beads and the self-organising properties of liquid crystals and will create particles with
exceptional optical response properties. Eventually, one of my aims is to arrive at sensor materials that respond with an optical read-out to a wide variety of triggers. This can be mechanical or electrical stimuli, changes in temperature, the uptake of molecules, or external chemical reactions such as binding process at the bead surface.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)