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Syllabus for

Academic year
FFY070 - Liquid crystals, physics and applications
Owner: FNMAS
3,0 Credits (ECTS 4,5)
Grading: TH - Five, Four, Three, Not passed
Level: C

Teaching language: English

Course module   Credit distribution   Examination dates
Sp1 Sp2 Sp3 Sp4 No Sp
0168 Examination 3,0 c Grading: TH   3,0 c   Contact examiner

In programs

MAMAS MSc PROGR IN ADVANCED MATERIALS - Electronic materials technology, Year 1 (elective)


Docent  Per Rudquist


For single subject courses within Chalmers programmes the same eligibility requirements apply, as to the programme(s) that the course is part of.

Course specific prerequisites

Basic courses on Optics, Electromagnetics, Thermodynamics, Solid state physics


We aim to give an introduction to the physics and the most common and future applications of liquid crystals. In addition to the basic course contents, we also give an overview of the state-of-the art of the field, both within research and industry. Parts of the course material and content is therefore continuously updated. Through a large number of examples and demonstrations during lectures and laboratory excercises, we aim to stimulate the student to see the connections to other courses and fields of science. The course gives a good basis for future advanced studies of liquid crystals but we hope that you will find the skills and knowledge gained in this course most rewarding, also for future activities within other disciplines.


- to give a basic understanding of the physics and applications of liquid crystals
- to show how knowledge of optics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, condensed matter physics, etc, is necessary for the development of, for instance, liquid crystal displays.
- to give an introduction to liquid crystal device fabrication in cleanroom environment
- to give hands-on experience of liquid crystals through experimental work
- to show how studies of liquid crystals help to give an increased understanding also of fields outside liquid crystals.


Most people are familiar with the fact that matter can exist in three different states: solid, liquid and gas. However, this is a simplification, and under extreme conditions other forms of matter can exist, e.g. plasma at very high temperatures or superfluid helium at very low temperatures. But we do not have to go to these extreme conditions to find new forms of order in matter. In liquid crystals, which are anisotropic fluids, the molecular order lies between those of the isotropic liquid and the crystal and the classification of liquid crystals is based on their degrees of orientational and positional order. From a basic physics point of view these materials are of large interest and have contributed to the modern understanding of phase transitions and critical phenomena, and to the knowledge about order phenomena in one, two, and three dimensions.
To common people liquid crystals are today almost synonomous to flat panel displays (Liquid Crystal Displays, LCDs) for computers, mobile phones, and other electronic equipment. But there is also a rapid development of other types of application, for instance in telecommunication, pattern recognition, real time holography, non-mechanical beam steering etc.

Liquid crystals consitute a unique form of soft matter and are becoming more and more important also in pure materials science in the development of polymer materials and biomaterials. The existence of life is directly dependent on self-organizing soft matter and here liquid crystalline systems are very important. One example is our cell membranes which consist of so-called lyotropic liquid crystals.

The course will give a basic understanding of the physics and different applications of liquid crystals. The content ranges from the history of liquid crystal science, from the first observations in the late nineteenth century, via the development of theories of the liquid crystalline state, the development of liquid crystal displays and examples of today s state of the art research. After about 30 years of strong focus on liquid crystal displays, a large part of the liquid crystal research is today shifting towards nanoscience, colloidal systems, biological systems, and, on the applicational side, towards photonics and microwave electronics.
The course will stress on how knowledge in optics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, vector analysis, symmetry analysis, etc. constitutes the basis for the very rapid development of liquid crystal displays and devices that we use every day. Furthermore, the course will through laboratory exercises and demonstrations give an introduction to the manufacturing of liquid crystal displays.

1. Physical properties of liquid crystals and basic theory
Phases and phase transisions; anisotropic materials; symmetry aspects; optics; electrooptics of liquid crystals; ferro-, and antiferroelectric liquid crystals; examples of LCs in nanoscience, photonics and microwave electronics, overview of the research front.

2. Liquid crystal applications
LCDs, present and future displays, demonstrations, manufacturing of devices, non-display applications, thermochromics, kevlar


Lectures, laboratory excercises, homework assignments for more information.


Copies of lecture notes.
Collings&Hird: Introduction to Liquid Crystals, Taylor&Francis 1997 (Recommended);

Also parts of:
S.T.Lagerwall, P.G.Rudquist, D.S.Hermann: "Liquid crystals", in Encyclopedia of optical Engineering, Marcel Dekker Inc. 2003)
J. Prost, P.G. de Gennes: The physics of liquid crystals, Oxford 1993; S.Chandrasekhar: Liquid Crystals, Cambridge 1976, second edition 1992; E.B. Priestley, P. Wojtowicz, P.Sheng: Introduction to Liquid Crystals, Plenum, NY 1975;
D.Demus et al. (editors) Handbook of Liquid Crystals, Volume 1-3, Wiley VCH, 1998; S.T.Lagerwall: Ferroelectric and Antiferroelectric Liquid Crystals, Wiley VCH 1999.


Home work assignments, laboratory exercises, oral or written exam.

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