Liquid crystalline cellulose-based nematogels

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Science Advances  18 Aug 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 8, e1700981
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700981

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Physical properties of composite materials can be pre-engineered by controlling their structure and composition at the mesoscale. However, approaches to achieving this are limited and rarely scalable. We introduce a new breed of self-assembled nematogels formed by an orientationally ordered network of thin cellulose nanofibers infiltrated with a thermotropic nematic fluid. The interplay between orientational ordering within the nematic network and that of the small-molecule liquid crystal around it yields a composite with highly tunable optical properties. By means of combining experimental characterization and modeling, we demonstrate submillisecond electric switching of transparency and facile responses of the composite to temperature changes. Finally, we discuss a host of potential technological uses of these self-assembled nematogel composites, ranging from smart and privacy windows to novel flexible displays.

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