Liquid crystals are organic molecules that have crystal-like properties but that are liquid at normal temperatures. Because the intermolecular forces are weak, the molecules can be oriented by weak electromagnetic fields. The liquid crystal molecules used in LCDs also have an optical anisotropy (different indices of refraction for different axes of the molecule) that is used to create visible images. The most common LCD is based on nematic liquid crystals, but displays under development are based on other phases, particularly the ferroelectric smectic phase.

Published: June 1992; WTEC Hyper-Librarian