“Observation and Analysis of Smectic Islands in Space” will study the unique behavior of liquid crystals in microgravity with special focus on their overall motion and merging of crystal layers which is known as the formation of smectic islands. Liquid crystals are widely used in technology, being employed in LCD TV screens, laptop screens, watches and other electronics with flat panel displays. The also find use in soaps and membranes. Studying liquid crystals in microgravity will provide new insights into two dimensional system physics of complex fluids. Findings may lead to understanding of well aligned, very high speed electro-optic devices that could find use in embedded ferroelectric liquid crystal micro-displays.
The experiment assembly consists of a bubble chamber that is filled with medium, air jet injectors, ink injectors, LED lights and a camera assembly that monitors the activity inside the chamber. This setup will be used to study the various aspects of fluid crystal behavior in space – looking at overall fluid motion, diffusion, and the merging of crystal film layers.
The experiment allows for a detailed study of complex fluid physics behavior in two dimensional fluids using freely suspended liquid crystals, focused on hydrodynamic flow, on relaxation of hydrodynamic perturbations, and on hydrodynamic interactions in two dimensions.
Precision studies of 2D hydrodynamics is possible in microgravity by using freely suspended bubbles without islands, convection, and sedimentation which represent nearly ideally homogenous (physical & chemical) systems. The introduction of islands / droplets in this system is recorded as controllable inclusions that modify flow and as markers of flow in the system. The experiment also looks at thermocapillarity of 2D fluids and collective systems of layer step interfaces on bubble surfaces.