US visit enables PhD student to see the 'big picture' in development of important new materials

US visit enables PhD student to see the 'big picture' in development of important new materials

An Aberdeen PhD student has undertaken a research visit to the US to allow him to see the practical application of new materials discovered here.

An Aberdeen PhD student has undertaken a research visit to the US to allow him to see the practical application of new materials discovered here.

Daniel Paterson is part of a University of Aberdeen research group leading the way in the discovery of liquid crystals with novel characteristics. These materials have a wide range of potential uses in new devices such as smart glass and biological sensors.

Daniel, 24, spent four weeks at The Liquid Crystal Institute (LCI) at Kent State University - a world-leading centre of excellence in liquid crystal science and technology.

He said the trip, funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry’s researcher mobility grant, enabled him to see the full spectrum in the development of these

“We are one of the only synthetic chemistry groups in the world focused on this new and exciting area of liquid crystal research and that puts us in a unique position globally as interest in these types of materials increases,” Daniel said.

“We can make liquid crystals with new characteristics and there is great interest in this internationally. It is a very new area of research but could have far-reaching implications.

“We as chemists are concerned with the properties of the material and its underlying science, they are a physics and engineering group with very different expertise.

Daniel, who is originally from Lancashire but also completed his undergraduate study at the University of Aberdeen, added that seeing the next ‘stage’ in the process had given him a new insight into the development of liquid crystals and a career in research.

“I think it is essential that the work we do as researchers is to benefit people’s lives, and not just for the sake of scientific curiosity.

“While most people know little of liquid crystals, they will come into this technology daily through their televisions, mobile phones and laptops.

“We are looking at ways to improve this technology and at other applications such as the use of liquid crystals in smart glass, for example in photo-tunable welding goggles.”

Already the research trip has delivered results as Daniel delivered his findings to the European Conference on Liquid Crystals and is working on several research papers.

Daniel has been invited to return to Kent State University to provide expertise in the development of liquid crystals as part of a large research project they are conducting.

“It was a fantastic opportunity for collaboration and I am very grateful for the grant which enabled me to go, as well as the hospitality I received in the States” he said.

“Very often you collaborate with people at other institutions and they are just a name on a piece of paper so it was great to go out there and meet the team.

“I now have a much better understanding of the work they do and rather than it being a case of ‘we do our bit and then they do theirs’, we can explore ways of working together more effectively.

“If we can better demonstrate the application of liquid crystals it will increase interest in the work we do in Aberdeen and benefit the whole field of liquid crystals.”

Daniel is supervised by Professors Corrie Imrie and John Storey. Professor Imrie added: “The development of liquid crystals from laboratory curiosities to a ubiquitous technology has necessarily involved truly multidisciplinary research groupings. This has been a wonderful opportunity for Daniel to experience and contribute to aspects of research focussed on the materials he has made here in Aberdeen but which he would not normally be exposed to.”

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