Highly Tunable Magnetic Liquid Crystals

Tech ID: 32619 / UC Case 2014-044-0

Full Description


The liquid like behavior and optical anisotropy of liquid crystals have catalyzed many important applications. Their molecular order can be manipulated through external stimuli such as temperature change, electric and magnetic fields - thereby enabling many technological advances – with a particularly successful example being liquid crystal displays driven by electric fields. Conventional liquid crystals (LCs) are mostly sensitive to magnetic fields, therefore development of magnetically actuated liquid crystals opens the door toward various applications which may benefit from the instantaneous and contactless nature of magnetic manipulation.

Even with significant advances in colloidal synthesis preparation of magnetic anisotropic nanostructures with a uniform size, well-defined shape and good solution dispersity has remained difficult.


Prof. Yadong Yin and his research group have successfully produced a magnetically responsive liquid crystal system based on magnetic iron oxide nanorods and demonstrated its instantaneous and reversible orientational tuning using magnetic fields. The nanorods can also be dispersed in a UV curable resin to produce thin film liquid crystals, the orientation of which can be fixed completely or in selected areas by combining magnetic alignment and lithographic processes, allowing the creation of patterns of different polarizations and control over the transmittance of light in particular areas. The developed liquid crystal alters the polarization of light and is able to control the intensity of the light transmitted through it – depending on the direction of the external magnetic field.

Iron-oxide nIanoroIds

TEM image of Fe3O4@SiO2 nanorods

POM Images

Polarized Optical Microscopy images of polarization modulated patterns under cross-polarizer – before and after shifting of transmission axis by 45o.


The advantages of this patented discovery are:

  • Fast switching (over 100 Hz) - extremely sensitive and instantaneous response to directional change of external magnetic field.
  • The magnetic nanorods can be produced as thin film liquid crystals whose orientation can be fixed in selected areas.
  • Electrode less remote control of the optical properties.
  • High sensitivity - only weak magnetic force required.
  • Provides a new platform for fabricating novel optical devices.

Suggested uses

  • Displays
  • Waveguides
  • Actuators
  • Optical modulators
  • Anti-counterfeiting features

Related Materials

Inventor Information

Patent Status

Country Type Number Dated Case
United States Of America Issued Patent 10,359,678 07/23/2019 2014-044


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Other Information


Nanorods, magnetic fields, Liquid crystals, Polarization, Waveguide, Anti-counterfeit

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