Playing with liquid crystalline water balloons

Thomas Just Sørensen is a guest web-writer for PCCP. He is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Table of contents imageSometimes you just have to sit back, read, and enjoy the ride. This is exactly the case with the work of Kirsten Harth and Ralf Stannarius from the Institute of Experimental Physics at the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg. The have investigated the interface tension between soapy water and a smectic liquid crystal.

Apparently, thin films of smectic—and only smectic—liquid crystals readily form in water, where they can form bubbles. In an ingenious experimental set-up Harth and Stannarius can measure the surface tension by letting a single air bubble put the smectic film bubble under tension. Amazing as it sounds, it is a viable procedure and the interface tension can be accurately determined.

The generic appeal of this study makes it one of the more enjoyable reads I have had in a while. The images were just so interesting that my curiosity forced me to download and read the paper.

If you are equally enticed, the paper is published in PCCP:

Measurement of the interface tension of smectic membranes in water
Kirsten Harth and Ralf Stannarius
Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2013, 15, 7204-7209
DOI: 10.1039/C3CP44055A

by Thomas Just Sørensen

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