Scientists create portable instrument for assessing key properties of the liquid crystal cells
Researchers at the University of Southampton have invented a cost-effective tool for the research, development and study of the latest liquid crystal displays.
The Optical Multi-Parameter Analyser, or OMPA, is an all-in-one instrument for the characterisation of liquid crystal cells, an essential component in the screens of televisions, computers and tablets that dominate our contemporary lives.
The equipment builds upon years of cutting-edge research in the Soft Photonics Systems (SoPHT) Group, which combines expertise from Southampton’s Schools of Physics and Astronomy and Mathematical Sciences.
“Liquid crystals are used in devices that are all around us, but in order to develop these incredible applications, liquid crystal engineers and researchers need specialist equipment to measure and characterise key properties of liquid crystal cells,” Professor Malgosia Kaczmarek explains. “They need to know how fast and reliable the devices are and whether parameters, like their optical quality, change in time and with use. OMPA uses powerful data analysis techniques with cross-polarised intensity measurements to determine liquid crystal parameters.
“Unlike its competitors, OMPA is a portable and compact instrument. The technology is enabling researchers to answer vital questions that enable key advances in our industry, for example, new un-doped or functionalised liquid crystals or the alignment of liquid crystals with photo-active polymers.
“OMPA not only operates with standard liquid crystal cells but can also be customised to measure parameters in assembled devices, making it suitable for long-term stability measurements. “You can use it in your laboratory, but it can also be deployed as an ideal teaching instrument,” Malgosia adds.
The SoPHT Group’s wider research goal is to explore how the self-organising nature of materials, such as liquid crystals and photosensitive films, can be manipulated by light, structured geometries and inorganic nanoparticles. The group’s experimental investigation and mathematical approaches have paved the way for innovative, adaptive optical components and technologies. The work has also produced other commercially available, bespoke tools for the fabrication and characterisation of liquid crystal cells and devices.
You can find out more about OMPA and other tools developed within the Southampton research team through the SoPHT Photonics Systems Group website.