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Optics Express

Optics Express

  • Editor: Andrew M. Weiner
  • Vol. 21, Iss. 8 — Apr. 22, 2013
  • pp: 9774–9779
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Unusual electro-optical behavior in a wide-temperature BPIII cell

Hui-Yu Chen, Sheng-Feng Lu, and Yi-Chun Hsieh  »View Author Affiliations


Optics Express, Vol. 21, Issue 8, pp. 9774-9779 (2013)
http://dx.doi.org/10.1364/OE.21.009774


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Abstract

A low driving voltage and fast response blue phase III (BPIII) liquid-crystal device with very low dielectric anisotropy is demonstrated. To stabilize BPIII in a wide temperature range (> 15°C), a chiral molecule with good solubility was chosen. By studying field-dependent polarization state of the transmitting light, it was found that the field-induced birefringence becomes saturated in the high field. However, the transmitting intensity exhibits a tendency to increase as the electric field increases. This indicates that the electro-optical behavior in BPIII device may be from the flexoelectric effect, which induces tilted optical axis and then induces birefringence. Because the phase transition from BPIII to chiral nematic phase does not happen, the device shows no hysteresis effect and no residual birefringence, exhibits fast response, and can be a candidate for fast photonic application.

© 2013 OSA

1. Introduction

An intrinsic optical-isotropic phase in liquid crystal materials is the blue phases (BPs). When the BP cell is inserted between two crossed polarizers, a perfect dark state will be detected and, in theory, the BP cell exhibits an unlimited contrast ratio for display when the BP reflection wavelength is less than the visible light. BPs usually appear in a narrow temperature region at the isotropic phase boundary and exist between the isotropic and the cholestric phases. When the LC materials are cooled from isotropic, the LC molecules are formed into double-twist cylinders (DTCs), and then these DTCs stack in the space. When the chiral nematic LC is heated from the cholestric phase, BPI appears first, and then BPII becomes stable above BPI, and finally BPIII appears. BPIII is amorphous with a short distance order of double twist alone [1

1. O. Chojnowska and R. Dabrowski, “The influence of cyano compound on liquid crystal blue phase range,” Photonics Letters of Poland 4(2), 81 (2012). [CrossRef]

, 2

2. P. P. Crooker, Chirality in Liquid Crystals (Springer, 2001), p.186.

] and usually shows a broad and weak selective reflection spectrum. Thus, BPIII exhibits very low transmission compared to the other two BPs. Presently, there are five possible theoretical models being used to explain BPIII structure [3

3. H.-S. Kitzerow, P. P. Crooker, S. L. Kowk, and G. Heppke, “A blue phase with negative dielectric anisotropy in an electric field. Statics and dynamics,” J. Phys. France 51(12), 1303–1312 (1990). [CrossRef]

]. A large scale computer simulation of BPIII provides strong evidence that BPIII should be amorphous network of disclination and shows that an electric field orders amorphous BPIII in to a more ordered BP [4

4. O. Henrich, K. Stratford, M. E. Cates, and D. Marenduzzo, “Structure of blue phase III of cholesteric liquid crystals,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 106(10), 107801 (2011). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

]. That field-induced transition to the ordered BP can be observed by detecting the reflection spectrum [5

5. H.-Y. Chen, J.-L. Lai, C.-C. Chan, and C.-H. Tseng, “Fast tunable reflection in amorphous blue phase III liquid crystal,” J. Appl. Phys. 113(12), 123103 (2013). [CrossRef]

]. BP materials have been found to have great potential in fast photonic applications [6

6. H.-S. Kitzerow, “Blue phases come of age: A review,” Proc. SPIE 7232, 723205, 723205-14 (2009). [CrossRef]

8

8. J. Yan, Z. Luo, S.-T. Wu, J.-W. Shiu, Y.-C. Lai, K.-L. Cheng, S.-H. Liu, P.-J. Hsieh, and Y.-C. Tsai, “Low voltage and high contrast blue phase liquid crystal with red-shifted Bragg reflection,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 102(1), 011113 (2013). [CrossRef]

]. However, the blue phases usually stabilize at a very narrow temperature range, because the internal defects make the structure less stable. Of the three BPs, BPIII usually occupies a narrow temperature range of ~0.1þC just below the isotropic phase when the chirality is high enough [6

6. H.-S. Kitzerow, “Blue phases come of age: A review,” Proc. SPIE 7232, 723205, 723205-14 (2009). [CrossRef]

, 9

9. D. K. Yang and P. P. Crooker, “Chiral-racemic phase diagrams of blue-phase liquid crystals,” Phys. Rev. A 35(10), 4419–4423 (1987). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

]. There are many ways which have been suggested to widen the BP temperature range [10

10. E. Karatairi, B. Rozic, Z. Kutnjak, V. Tzitzios, G. Nounesis, G. Cordoyiannis, J. Thoen, C. Glorieux, and S. Kralj, “Nanoparticle-induced widening of the temperature range of liquid-crystalline blue phases,” Phys. Rev. E Stat. Nonlin. Soft Matter Phys. 81(4), 041703 (2010). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

12

12. H. Kikuchi, M. Yokota, Y. Hisakado, H. Yang, and T. Kajiyama, “Polymer-stabilized liquid crystal blue phases,” Nat. Mater. 1(1), 64–68 (2002). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

]. Among these, the most effective way to extend the temperature range of BPI or BPII is polymer stabilization [12

12. H. Kikuchi, M. Yokota, Y. Hisakado, H. Yang, and T. Kajiyama, “Polymer-stabilized liquid crystal blue phases,” Nat. Mater. 1(1), 64–68 (2002). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

]. However, the polymer network cannot obviously stabilize the amorphous BPIII in a wide temperature range. Although one can use the polymer network to keep BPI or BPII stable in a very wide temperature range [12

12. H. Kikuchi, M. Yokota, Y. Hisakado, H. Yang, and T. Kajiyama, “Polymer-stabilized liquid crystal blue phases,” Nat. Mater. 1(1), 64–68 (2002). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

], the polymer network increases the driving voltage, the hysteresis effect and the residual birefringence [13

13. S.-I. Yamamoto, T. Iwata, Y. Haseba, D.-U. Cho, S.-W. Choi, H. Higuchi, and H. Kikuchi, “Improvement of electro-optical properties on polymer-stabilized optically isotropic liquid crystals,” Liq. Cryst. 39(4), 487–491 (2012). [CrossRef]

].

In this study, we demonstrate a wide-temperature BPIII device without a polymer network. A chiral dopant with good solubility is helpful for extending the temperature range of BPIII to more than 15 °C. From the electro-optical characteristics of the BPIII, we see that the BPIII cell is a fast response photonic device with no residual birefringence, less hysteresis effect and low driving voltage. By detecting the polarization state of the transmitting light through the BPIII cell and calculating the field-induced birefringence, the field-induced birefringence increases when the applied voltage is increased. However, in the high voltage regime (>100 V) the induced birefringence becomes saturated. At the same time, the transmitting intensity continues to increase as the electric field increases. This behavior cannot be explained by the Kerr effect alone. The flexoelectric effect should be considered in BPIII.

2. Experimental setup and material preparation

A nematic liquid crystal with small positive dielectric anisotropy (Δε~2.7 and Δn~0.1 at room temperature) was used as the host in this study, and was mixed with 24-wt% left-hand chiral dopant. Under this concentration of the dopant, the pitch of the LC mixture is 208 nm, such that the liquid-crystal mixture displayed optical isotropy in transmittance and reflectance. To generate the electro-optical characteristics, the mixture was filled into a 9-μm in-plane switching (IPS) test cell, where the separation and width of the electrode strip are 10 μm. When the chiral LC cell was cooling from a high temperature, the textures of the LC mixture recorded by reflection and transmission crossed polarization microscope were absolutely dark until 19°C. While continuously cooling the cell, BPI of a violet-blue color appeared. In order to determine the entire phase sequence of the mixture before BPI appeared, a 200-V square wave was applied to the cell above 19°C. It was found that a significant change in the transmitting intensity through the cell was observed at 35°C, and that the transmitting intensity can be switched between dark and bright states in a very short time, as shown in Fig. 1
Fig. 1 The light intensities through the cell, which is mounted with two crossed polarizers, at different temperatures. The applied voltage is 200-V square wave.
. This indicates that, in the temperature range between 35°C and 19°C, the phase of the cell is not liquid, but can be treated as the amorphous blue phase III. The total temperature range of BPIII in this sample is more than 15°C. This wide temperature range of BPIII is induced by the chiral dopant, because its solubility in nematic liquid crystal is very good, and its molecular structure is similar to the dilution used in the liquid crystals, which can reduce the viscosity and clearing point of the liquid crystals.

3. Results and Discussion

Figure 2
Fig. 2 Before and After switching the transmitting states of the BPIII cell under crossed polarizers. An image was provided behind the bottom polarizer. (a) Before turning on voltage, due to the optical isotropy of BPIII, the backing image cannot be seen. (b) After turning on the 200-V square wave, the backing image appears clearly. (Media 1)
demonstrates the transmittance of the BPIII device affected by the in-plane electric field at 24°C. As we show in Fig. 2(a), when the electric field is null, due to the optical isotropy of the BPIII cell, the incidence light cannot pass through as the cell was inserted between two crossed polarizers. After turning on the field, the image behind the cell can be seen, as in Fig. 2(b). The electro-optical characteristics of the BPIII device are measured in Fig. 3
Fig. 3 (a) The electro-optical property of the BPIII cell at 24°C. (b) Threshold fields of the BPIII cell at various temperatures.
. From the pictures, one can compare the contrast ratio of the BPIII cell.

To obtain the maximum light transmittance after applying voltage, the direction of the electric field in the BPIII cell is made at an angle of 49þ with respect to the front polarizer. At low field strengths, the transmission is low, subsequently rising nonlinearly as the field increases. The transmission does not become saturated at the maximum voltage which our equipment can supply. Moreover, the phase transition from BPIII to chiral nematic was not seen. From Fig. 3, it can be seen that, on increasing and decreasing the electric field, there is no hysteresis effect and the original dark state is recovered when the field is turned off. The light transmission of the cell can be tuned by changing the electric field intensity, as in Fig. 3(a). The threshold field to switch from the dark to bright states is less than 5 V/μm at 20°C in Fig. 3(b). The maximum light transmission (Imax) also increases dramatically with the reduction in the temperature of the cell as shown in Fig. 1 and Table 1

Table 1. The hysteresis ratio in the BPIII cell (the hysteresis ratio is defined by the ratio of the transmitting intensity difference ΔI in the electric field and Imax, as hysteresis = (ΔI/Imax) × 100%).

table-icon
View This Table
. We calculated the hysteresis ratio of the device at the various temperatures and provide a summary in Tab. 1.

By recording the electro-optical response of the cell through the crossed polarizers, the on time and off time as a function of the electric field strength at 24°C are shown in Fig. 4
Fig. 4 (a) The response times of the BPIII cell at 24°C. (b) The response times of the BPIII cell at various temperatures.
. The on time decreases from 1.7 ms at 10 V/μm to 1.1 ms at 20 V/μm, and does not strongly depend on the electric field strength. The off time increases slowly from 0.9 ms at 10 V/μm to 1 ms at 20 V/μm. We can conclude that the off time is almost constant at the various electric fields. The total response time is less than 3 ms. Comparing these experimental results with the published results of other optical-isotropic devices, the response time of our cell is faster than the BPIII cells made of bent-core nematic [11

11. K. V. Le, S. Aya, Y. Sasaki, H. Choi, F. Araoka, K. Ema, J. Mieczkowski, A. Jakli, K. Ishikawa, and H. Takezoe, “Liquid crystalline amorphous blue phase and its large electrooptical Kerr effect,” J. Mater. Chem. 21(9), 2855–2857 (2011). [CrossRef]

] or chiral liquid crystal oligomer [14

14. M. Sato and A. Yoshizawa, “Electro-optical switching in a blue phase III exhibited by a chiral liquid crystal oligomer,” Adv. Mater. 19(23), 4145–4148 (2007). [CrossRef]

]. The possible reasons are that low-molecular-weight nematic was used and that the viscosity of the nematic is also low.

In order to understand it, we use polarimetry to trace the transmitting polarization states of the BPIII cell, and then calculate the induced birefringence, as in Fig. 6
Fig. 6 The electric-field-dependence induced birefringence in the BPIII cell at 24°C, which is calculated by polarimetry. The wavelength of the incident light is 635 nm.
. Only in the low voltage regime (< 80 V) is δn proportional to E2 (see the insert of Fig. 6). When the electric field increases, δn becomes saturated. This means that we should measure the saturated transmitted light intensity at high voltage, according to Eq. (1). However, our experimental result in Fig. 3(a) does not agree with this tendency. These independent results imply that the Kerr effect cannot completely explain the entire electro-optical behavior of the BPIII cell. By reducing the temperature of the cell close to cubic BP, a phase transition to chiral nematic is seen. Thus, we believe that the effect of the unwinding the helical director deformation might not occur, and thus the orientation of the LC director in BPIII shown in this study might still twist along two perpendicular directions. The transmitting intensity is dominated by two factors: the angle between the optic axis and the polarization state of the incident light φ and the amount of the induced-birefringence δn. From Figs. 1 and 6, we can suggest that the φ is not constant at various electric fields, and it is a function of the electric field as flexoelectric effect describes. The degree of the optic axis rotation induced by the flexoelectric effect is given by [16

16. B. J. Broughton, M. J. Clarke, A. E. Blatch, and H. J. Coles, “Optimized flexoelectric response in a chiral liquid-crystal phase device,” J. Appl. Phys. 98(3), 034109 (2005). [CrossRef]

] tanφ=e¯EP/K2π, where e¯is the average of the flexoelectric coefficients and K is the average of the splay and bend elastic constants. We roughly calculated the rotation angle from Fig. 1. When the induced-birefringence is 0.02, the maximum rotation angle is less than 5°, because the flexoelectric coefficient of the sample used here is less than bimesogenic compounds (e¯~10 pC/m) [17

17. F. Castles, S. M. Morris, D. J. Gardiner, Q. M. Malik, and H. J. Coles, “Ultra-fast-switching flexoelectric liquid-crystal display with high contrast,” J. Soc. Inf. Disp. 18(2), 128–133 (2010). [CrossRef]

]. According to the optical properties of BPIII, in the zero field, the blue phase is optical isotropy and is no prefer direction of the optical axis. After applying the in-plane field, there are at least two effects dominating the electro-optical phenomena occurring in BPIII cells, such as flexoelectric and local dielectric couplings. These effects induce an optical axis. The induced optical axis may relate to the ordered DTC orientation. Further research work to understand the mechanism of the switching in BPIII cells is still required.

4. Conclusion

In this study, we successfully demonstrate a residual-birefringence free optical-isotropic BPIII liquid-crystal device without a polymer network at room temperature. This device does not require alignment, exhibits an unlimited contrast ratio and shows ultrafast response speed. From the experimental results, this device can work at a wide temperature range, including room temperature. The light intensity increases with the decrease in temperature or with the enhancement of the electric field. According to the behaviors of the transmittance and the induced birefringence with the electric field, the Kerr effect can only be used to explain a part of the experimental results. The entire mechanism of the switching process in the BPIII cell is not clear, but we are carrying out different experiments to understand it.

Acknowledgment

The authors would like to thank the National Science Council of the Republic of China for financially supporting this research under Grant No. NSC 101-2112-M-035-001-MY3.

References and links

1.

O. Chojnowska and R. Dabrowski, “The influence of cyano compound on liquid crystal blue phase range,” Photonics Letters of Poland 4(2), 81 (2012). [CrossRef]

2.

P. P. Crooker, Chirality in Liquid Crystals (Springer, 2001), p.186.

3.

H.-S. Kitzerow, P. P. Crooker, S. L. Kowk, and G. Heppke, “A blue phase with negative dielectric anisotropy in an electric field. Statics and dynamics,” J. Phys. France 51(12), 1303–1312 (1990). [CrossRef]

4.

O. Henrich, K. Stratford, M. E. Cates, and D. Marenduzzo, “Structure of blue phase III of cholesteric liquid crystals,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 106(10), 107801 (2011). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

5.

H.-Y. Chen, J.-L. Lai, C.-C. Chan, and C.-H. Tseng, “Fast tunable reflection in amorphous blue phase III liquid crystal,” J. Appl. Phys. 113(12), 123103 (2013). [CrossRef]

6.

H.-S. Kitzerow, “Blue phases come of age: A review,” Proc. SPIE 7232, 723205, 723205-14 (2009). [CrossRef]

7.

Y. Hisakado, H. Kikuchi, T. Nagamura, and T. Kajiyama, “Large electro-optic Kerr effect in polymer stabilized liquid crystalline blue phases,” Adv. Mater. 17(1), 96–98 (2005). [CrossRef]

8.

J. Yan, Z. Luo, S.-T. Wu, J.-W. Shiu, Y.-C. Lai, K.-L. Cheng, S.-H. Liu, P.-J. Hsieh, and Y.-C. Tsai, “Low voltage and high contrast blue phase liquid crystal with red-shifted Bragg reflection,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 102(1), 011113 (2013). [CrossRef]

9.

D. K. Yang and P. P. Crooker, “Chiral-racemic phase diagrams of blue-phase liquid crystals,” Phys. Rev. A 35(10), 4419–4423 (1987). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

10.

E. Karatairi, B. Rozic, Z. Kutnjak, V. Tzitzios, G. Nounesis, G. Cordoyiannis, J. Thoen, C. Glorieux, and S. Kralj, “Nanoparticle-induced widening of the temperature range of liquid-crystalline blue phases,” Phys. Rev. E Stat. Nonlin. Soft Matter Phys. 81(4), 041703 (2010). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

11.

K. V. Le, S. Aya, Y. Sasaki, H. Choi, F. Araoka, K. Ema, J. Mieczkowski, A. Jakli, K. Ishikawa, and H. Takezoe, “Liquid crystalline amorphous blue phase and its large electrooptical Kerr effect,” J. Mater. Chem. 21(9), 2855–2857 (2011). [CrossRef]

12.

H. Kikuchi, M. Yokota, Y. Hisakado, H. Yang, and T. Kajiyama, “Polymer-stabilized liquid crystal blue phases,” Nat. Mater. 1(1), 64–68 (2002). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

13.

S.-I. Yamamoto, T. Iwata, Y. Haseba, D.-U. Cho, S.-W. Choi, H. Higuchi, and H. Kikuchi, “Improvement of electro-optical properties on polymer-stabilized optically isotropic liquid crystals,” Liq. Cryst. 39(4), 487–491 (2012). [CrossRef]

14.

M. Sato and A. Yoshizawa, “Electro-optical switching in a blue phase III exhibited by a chiral liquid crystal oligomer,” Adv. Mater. 19(23), 4145–4148 (2007). [CrossRef]

15.

P. R. Gerber, “Electro-optical effects of a small-pitch blue-phase system,” Mol. Cryst. Liq. Cryst. (Phila. Pa.) 116(3-4), 197–206 (1985). [CrossRef]

16.

B. J. Broughton, M. J. Clarke, A. E. Blatch, and H. J. Coles, “Optimized flexoelectric response in a chiral liquid-crystal phase device,” J. Appl. Phys. 98(3), 034109 (2005). [CrossRef]

17.

F. Castles, S. M. Morris, D. J. Gardiner, Q. M. Malik, and H. J. Coles, “Ultra-fast-switching flexoelectric liquid-crystal display with high contrast,” J. Soc. Inf. Disp. 18(2), 128–133 (2010). [CrossRef]

OCIS Codes
(160.3710) Materials : Liquid crystals
(230.2090) Optical devices : Electro-optical devices
(260.1440) Physical optics : Birefringence

ToC Category:
Optical Devices

History
Original Manuscript: February 19, 2013
Revised Manuscript: April 8, 2013
Manuscript Accepted: April 9, 2013
Published: April 12, 2013

Citation
Hui-Yu Chen, Sheng-Feng Lu, and Yi-Chun Hsieh, "Unusual electro-optical behavior in a wide-temperature BPIII cell," Opt. Express 21, 9774-9779 (2013)
http://www.opticsinfobase.org/oe/abstract.cfm?URI=oe-21-8-9774


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References

  1. O. Chojnowska and R. Dabrowski, “The influence of cyano compound on liquid crystal blue phase range,” Photonics Letters of Poland4(2), 81 (2012). [CrossRef]
  2. P. P. Crooker, Chirality in Liquid Crystals (Springer, 2001), p.186.
  3. H.-S. Kitzerow, P. P. Crooker, S. L. Kowk, and G. Heppke, “A blue phase with negative dielectric anisotropy in an electric field. Statics and dynamics,” J. Phys. France51(12), 1303–1312 (1990). [CrossRef]
  4. O. Henrich, K. Stratford, M. E. Cates, and D. Marenduzzo, “Structure of blue phase III of cholesteric liquid crystals,” Phys. Rev. Lett.106(10), 107801 (2011). [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  5. H.-Y. Chen, J.-L. Lai, C.-C. Chan, and C.-H. Tseng, “Fast tunable reflection in amorphous blue phase III liquid crystal,” J. Appl. Phys.113(12), 123103 (2013). [CrossRef]
  6. H.-S. Kitzerow, “Blue phases come of age: A review,” Proc. SPIE7232, 723205, 723205-14 (2009). [CrossRef]
  7. Y. Hisakado, H. Kikuchi, T. Nagamura, and T. Kajiyama, “Large electro-optic Kerr effect in polymer stabilized liquid crystalline blue phases,” Adv. Mater.17(1), 96–98 (2005). [CrossRef]
  8. J. Yan, Z. Luo, S.-T. Wu, J.-W. Shiu, Y.-C. Lai, K.-L. Cheng, S.-H. Liu, P.-J. Hsieh, and Y.-C. Tsai, “Low voltage and high contrast blue phase liquid crystal with red-shifted Bragg reflection,” Appl. Phys. Lett.102(1), 011113 (2013). [CrossRef]
  9. D. K. Yang and P. P. Crooker, “Chiral-racemic phase diagrams of blue-phase liquid crystals,” Phys. Rev. A35(10), 4419–4423 (1987). [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  10. E. Karatairi, B. Rozic, Z. Kutnjak, V. Tzitzios, G. Nounesis, G. Cordoyiannis, J. Thoen, C. Glorieux, and S. Kralj, “Nanoparticle-induced widening of the temperature range of liquid-crystalline blue phases,” Phys. Rev. E Stat. Nonlin. Soft Matter Phys.81(4), 041703 (2010). [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  11. K. V. Le, S. Aya, Y. Sasaki, H. Choi, F. Araoka, K. Ema, J. Mieczkowski, A. Jakli, K. Ishikawa, and H. Takezoe, “Liquid crystalline amorphous blue phase and its large electrooptical Kerr effect,” J. Mater. Chem.21(9), 2855–2857 (2011). [CrossRef]
  12. H. Kikuchi, M. Yokota, Y. Hisakado, H. Yang, and T. Kajiyama, “Polymer-stabilized liquid crystal blue phases,” Nat. Mater.1(1), 64–68 (2002). [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  13. S.-I. Yamamoto, T. Iwata, Y. Haseba, D.-U. Cho, S.-W. Choi, H. Higuchi, and H. Kikuchi, “Improvement of electro-optical properties on polymer-stabilized optically isotropic liquid crystals,” Liq. Cryst.39(4), 487–491 (2012). [CrossRef]
  14. M. Sato and A. Yoshizawa, “Electro-optical switching in a blue phase III exhibited by a chiral liquid crystal oligomer,” Adv. Mater.19(23), 4145–4148 (2007). [CrossRef]
  15. P. R. Gerber, “Electro-optical effects of a small-pitch blue-phase system,” Mol. Cryst. Liq. Cryst. (Phila. Pa.)116(3-4), 197–206 (1985). [CrossRef]
  16. B. J. Broughton, M. J. Clarke, A. E. Blatch, and H. J. Coles, “Optimized flexoelectric response in a chiral liquid-crystal phase device,” J. Appl. Phys.98(3), 034109 (2005). [CrossRef]
  17. F. Castles, S. M. Morris, D. J. Gardiner, Q. M. Malik, and H. J. Coles, “Ultra-fast-switching flexoelectric liquid-crystal display with high contrast,” J. Soc. Inf. Disp.18(2), 128–133 (2010). [CrossRef]

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