A team from the University of Luxembourg has discovered the potential of liquid crystal shells in a number of new applications, including autonomous vehicles, anti-counterfeiting technology and a new class of sensors.

Liquid crystals are in a state between a solid and a liquid and are commonly used in television screens.  Spherical shells of liquid crystals are tunable from the ultraviolet (UV) to the infrared range, with complex patterns arising when many of them are brought together.

They are only fractions of a millimeter and can easily be applied to surfaces. The shells can highly selectively reflect light and can be arranged into patterns that are readable for machines like a QR code to add coded information to objects. “These patterns could be used to guide autonomous vehicles or to instruct robots when handling workpieces in a factory,” Professor Jan Lagerwall said in a statement. “This could become important especially in indoors applications where GPS devices don’t work.”

According to the study, in order to prevent the shells from collapsing, the researchers added surface‐active stabilizers to the isotropic phases.

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