Liquid crystal (LC) is a state of matter whose properties are between those of conventional liquids and those of solid crystals. For example, a liquid crystal may flow like a liquid, but its molecules may be oriented in a crystal-like way. There are many types of LC phases, which can be distinguished by their optical properties (such as textures). The contrasting textures arise due to molecules within one area of material ("domain") being oriented in the same direction but different areas having different orientations. LC materials may not always be in a LC state of matter (just as water may be ice or water vapor).
|Condensed matter physics|
Liquid crystals can be divided into 3 main types: thermotropic, lyotropic, and metallotropic.
Thermotropic and lyotropic liquid crystals consist mostly of organic molecules, although a few minerals are also known. Thermotropic LCs exhibit a phase transition into the LC phase as temperature changes. Lyotropic LCs exhibit phase transitions as a function of both temperature and concentration of molecules in a solvent (typically water). Metallotropic LCs are composed of both organic and inorganic molecules; their LC transition additionally depends on the inorganic-organic composition ratio.
Examples of LCs exist both in the natural world and in technological applications. Lyotropic LCs abound in living systems; many proteins and cell membranes are LCs, as well as the tobacco mosaic virus. LCs in the mineral world include solutions of soap and various related detergents, and some clays. Widespread liquid-crystal displays (LCD) use liquid crystals.