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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S029214/1
Title: Topological control of soft matter using novel nano-replication manufacturing
Principal Investigator: Jones, Professor C
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Dynamic VIsion Systems Merck KGaA
Department: Physics and Astronomy
Organisation: University of Leeds
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 October 2019 Ends: 30 September 2022 Value (£): 1,046,439
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Manufacturing Machine & Plant Microsystems
Optoelect. Devices & Circuits
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Electronics Manufacturing
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
14 May 2019 Engineering Fellowships Interview Panel Meeting 14 and 15 May 2019 Announced
09 Apr 2019 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 9 and 10 April 2019 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Liquid crystals (LC) are familiar to us all, through their use in the LC Displays (LCD) used in our phones and TVs. These self-assembling organic materials are used increasingly in a wide range of other applications, from smart windows to telecommunications, from Virtual Reality headsets to sensors. Over the past decade, there has been an explosion of interest in using topological defects in liquid crystals, and their use to aid the self-assembly of colloidal particles added to the liquid crystal or micro-droplets of liquid crystal in dispersions. The applicant co-invented the Zenithal Bistable Display (ZBD), an LCD that stores the image by creation of topological defects at a surface-grating layer, thereby operating with ultra-low power. He founded the spin-out Displaydata to commercialise the technology and that company has grown to become a world leading supplier of graphic shelf-edge labels to the retail sector. With any electro-optic device, such as a display, it is important that the electric field is applied uniformly and without unnecessary losses. Although nano-imprint lithography is now a well-established technique, it is not ideally suited to electro-optic devices for these reasons. Previously, the investigator developed nano-embossing and selective adhesion methods to add gratings onto the inner surfaces of the ZBD LCD both uniformly and efficiently, transferring them to manufacturing production lines in the Far East.

On moving to Leeds University with an EPSRC Manufacturing Fellowship designed to attract industrialists into academia, the applicant has set up a prototyping facility that includes these techniques, and has extended the processes to allow more complex surface structures with new functionalities to be made. These include making simple lenses using liquid crystals that operate with near 100% efficiency and without polarisers. We are all familiar with how dull a reflective watch LCD seems because more than half of the light is absorbed by polarisers either side. Polarisation dependence hinders the use of liquid crystals in many applications, but with the nano-embossing method there is a great potential to solve that problem. This project focusses on extending the physics and technology for these ideas, bringing these inventions to a level where the commercialisation process may begin, and cultivating them for other optical devices such as high efficiency switchable computer generated holograms or camera lenses, or creating bistable switchable lenses that operate with minimal power.

As well as being an entrepreneurial physicist, the applicant has a wealth of new ideas that could be accelerated towards making practical devices, from fast electro-optic shutters, to low voltage smart windows using liquid crystal shells, and novel sensors and displays based on multi-faced Janus-particles that flip under an electric field. During the course of the Fellowship so far, he has applied his manufacturing and device expertise to creating switchable contact lenses for the correction of presbyopia, the poor eyesight that everyone over fifty suffers from. This led to his second spin-out company, Dynamic Vision Systems Ltd. With such a high success rate of making new inventions that are backed by ground-breaking research, the funding of this proposal has a high potential to lead to real wealth and job creation for the future, as well as generating new science and technology.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.leeds.ac.uk