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Keywords:

  • liquid crystals;
  • cholesteric phase;
  • polymer-stabilized liquid crystals;
  • cuticle;
  • light reflection;
  • broadband

Abstract

The cholesteric-liquid-crystalline structure, which concerns the organization of chromatin, collagen, chitin, or cellulose, is omnipresent in living matter. In technology, it is found in temperature and pressure sensors, supertwisted nematic liquid crystal displays, optical filters, reflective devices, or cosmetics. A cholesteric liquid crystal reflects light because of its helical structure. The reflection is selective – the bandwidth is limited to a few tens of nanometers and the reflectance is equal to at most 50% for unpolarized incident light, which is a consequence of the polarization-selectivity rule. These limits must be exceeded for innovative applications like polarizer-free reflective displays, broadband polarizers, optical data storage media, polarization-independent devices, stealth technologies, or smart switchable reflective windows to control solar light and heat. Novel cholesteric-liquid-crystalline architectures with the related fabrication procedures must therefore be developed. This article reviews solutions found in living matter and laboratories to broaden the bandwidth around a central reflection wavelength, do without the polarization-selectivity rule and go beyond the reflectance limit.