Ideas to Market Workshop

Instructions – Case Study Analysis

  1. Review this case study about liquid crystals to learn about the technology
  2. Use the internet to learn more about them
  3. Brainstorm ideas to apply the technology to solve a current problem
  4. Develop your three minute pitch to sell the idea to an investor


Liquid Crystals Case Study

Liquid crystals are groups of molecules that assemble into phases that are between a solid, crystalline phase and a liquid phase.  The primary use of liquid crystals has been for information displays, beginning with laptops and desktop monitors and now the smartphone market, with almost every consumer owning something that uses liquid crystals.  But there are so many more opportunities for this technology to be used in other fields. 

The liquid crystals are rod or disk-shaped and arrange themselves into different orientations based on temperature, what solvent they’re suspended in or if there is an electric field present.  By changing the orientation of the liquid crystals using these techniques, you change their structure and properties to suit specific applications.  Typically, liquid crystals are used in optical applications because the liquid crystals change how they interact with light as the orientations of the crystals change with temperature, solvent or electric field.  

(a) With increasing temperature, the liquid crystal changes phases to become less orientated.

(b) The treatment of the surface with a certain substance can induce alignment in liquid crystal films.

(c) Liquid crystal molecules that are susceptible to electric fields aligning along the applied field.


Research has led to the understanding that many biological systems have ordered liquid crystalline materials.  To generate new applications, researchers are combining the liquid crystal technology with aspects of the biosciences to develop liquid crystal materials for biological and medical applications.  

Field of Research  

Soft matter physics look at materials that are easily deformed by thermal fluctuations or external forces, and involve understanding the behaviour of materials that include polymers, foams, gels, liquid crystals and biological materials. 


Woltman SJGD and Crawford GP.  Liquid-crystal materials find a new order in biomedical applications.  Nature Materials 6, 929 – 938 (2007). 


Prep Your Pitch

  1. Technology: Describe the technology to provide context
  2. Problem: Explain the problem or challege
  3. Action: How will the technology solve the problem in context
  4. Result: What will be achieved?
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