Since their development in de late 80’s of last century, reactive mesogens (RM’s) have find their way to a wealth of applications. The frozen-in molecular order of the polymer networks that they form upon polymerization brought a new dimension into liquid crystal technology. Initially developed for their use as low shrinkage, low thermal stress coatings, the RM’s demonstrated their function especially in optical applications. The large, temperature-stable and adjustable birefringence was adopted by the display industry for many purposes, varying from viewing angle enhancement to optical-retarder based 3D imaging optics. Presently, advanced optical applications for augmented reality and astronomy lenses are drawing much attention as well their use to stabilize special liquid crystal effects for smart windows and dedicated display types.
The use of RM’s for soft robotics applications is nowadays studied by many academic and industrial institutes. Triggered by heat, light or humidity the polymers change shape, surface structure or porosity. At Eindhoven University, we developed self-sustaining oscillators, cilia based micro-transport devices and haptic surfaces. Films deform from a flat to a complex, but pre-designed, shape with prospects to light-triggered origami and self-folding plastic elements. A completely new development relates to coatings that switch their surfaces from flat to corrugated with a preset topography, thus controlling properties as friction and grip.
The lecture will discuss our newest developments in responsive liquid crystal polymer materials, giving a preliminary view on the future of RM’s with advanced applications in the fields of oscillatory films, smart coatings, soft robotics and haptics.