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Nematic Liquid Crystal Composite Materials for DC and RF Switching

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI 53233, USA
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Technologies 2019, 7(2), 32; https://doi.org/10.3390/technologies7020032
Received: 11 February 2019 / Revised: 28 March 2019 / Accepted: 30 March 2019 / Published: 2 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microswitching Technologies)
Liquid Crystals (LCs) are widely used in display devices, electro-optic modulators, and optical switches. A field-induced electrical conductivity modulation in pure liquid crystals is very low which makes it less preferable for direct current (DC) and radio-frequency (RF) switching applications. According to the literature, a conductivity enhancement is possible by nanoparticle doping. Considering this aspect, we reviewed published works focused on an electric field-induced conductivity modulation in carbon nanotube-doped liquid crystal composites (LC-CNT composites). A two to four order of magnitude switching in electrical conductivity is observed by several groups. Both in-plane and out-of-plane device configurations are used. In plane configurations are preferable for micro-device fabrication. In this review article, we discussed published works reporting the elastic and molecular interaction of a carbon nanotube (CNT) with LC molecules, temperature and CNT concentration effects on electrical conductivity, local heating, and phase transition behavior during switching. Reversibility and switching speed are the two most important performance parameters of a switching device. It was found that dual frequency nematic liquid crystals (DFNLC) show a faster switching with a good reversibility, but the switching ratio is only two order of magnitudes. A better way to ensure reversibility with a large switching magnitude is to use two pairs of in-plane electrodes in a cross configuration. For completeness and comparison purposes, we briefly reviewed other nanoparticle- (i.e., Au and Ag) doped LC composite’s conductivity behavior as well. Finally, based on the reported works reviewed in this article on field induced conductivity modulation, we proposed a novel idea of RF switching by LC composite materials. To support the idea, we simulated an LC composite-based RF device considering a simple analytical model. Our RF analysis suggests that a device made with an LC-CNT composite could show an acceptable performance. Several technological challenges needed to be addressed for a physical realization and are also discussed briefly. View Full-Text
Keywords: liquid crystal (LC); carbon nanotube (CNT); gold nanoparticle (GNP); electrical conductivity; direct current (DC); radio frequency (RF) switch liquid crystal (LC); carbon nanotube (CNT); gold nanoparticle (GNP); electrical conductivity; direct current (DC); radio frequency (RF) switch
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Munna, M.; Anwar, F.; Coutu, R.A., Jr. Nematic Liquid Crystal Composite Materials for DC and RF Switching. Technologies 2019, 7, 32.

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