Congratulations to JungHyun and Kevin! During Kevin's bachelor thesis work (supervised by JungHyun) they discovered a very surprising textural change during the nematic-isotropic transition of liquid crystal shells. This became the start of a detailed investigation of what the substances that surround liquid crystal shells, typically surfactants and random coil polymers dissolved in aqueous mixtures, actually do to the liquid crystal. Now this study has been accepted for publication as a Communication in Soft Matter. You can download the 'just accepted' version here, and you will then see that water actually enters the liquid crystal, affecting its clearing point, and surfactant can go through from one side to the other, turning a hybrid shell uniformly homeotropic after some time. On the other hand, if the surfactant concentration is too low, the alignment is planar, because then the planar-aligning influence of water dominates. Polymers like PVA just stabilize the shells, they don't affect the alignment.
On the 14th of October 2015 we had the unusual pleasure to welcome two new group members on the same day, Venkatasubbarao (we call him just 'Rao') Jampani (left) and Larry Honaker (right). Rao is a post-doc working within the INTERACT project, focusing primarily on soft robotics based on liquid crystal elastomers with non-standard morphologies and topologies, and Larry is a Ph.D. candidate, working within his own AFR project LIMEFLOW, which deals with flow of liquid metals, in particular the possibility of achieving liquid metal jets co-flowing within polymer solutions.