The INTERACT project
Interact is a 5-year ERC Consolidator project (grant code grant code 648763) led by Jan Lagerwall, professor in physics at the University of Luxembourg, Research Unit for Physics & Materials Science. It runs from April 2015 to March 2020. Its purpose is to explore liquid crystals in new contexts, exploring the responsive character and diverse self-assembled structures seen in liquid crystals in a way that can open for an entirely new range of applications, possibly with transformative character. In terms of applications we focus particularly on wearable technology (non-electronic sensors with textile fiber form factor), soft robotics (soft actuators and robotic skins) and secure authentication (employing dynamic unclonable patterns generated by spheres of Bragg-reflecting liquid crystal). The path towards these applied goals goes via fundamental physics and chemistry research, investigating how the types and arrangements of topological defects in liquid crystals with curved surfaces can be controlled, how these defects can be used to tailor the response of the liquid crystal to various stimuli, how the growth of polymer chains can be influenced by confining a liquid crystalline precursor mixture with varying curved geometries, how different types of gases at the interface between a liquid crystal and a polymer influence the liquid crystal ordering, just to mention a few of the many intriguing questions we encounter in this exceptionally multidisciplinary project. We collaborate with numerous partners worldwide who provide cutting-edge complementary expertise, their research fields varying from organic chemistry, via robotics engineering, to art and architecture.