Francesco Merola got his degree in Physics cum laude in 2006, at the "Federico II" University of Napoli, Italy, and the PhD in Fundamental and Applied Physics at the same University in 2009. In 2007 he joined the National Institute of Optics of the National Council of Research (CNR-INO) in Napoli, where he is now researcher. His interests deal with optical tweezers, microscopy, interferometry, and liquid crystals behavior in polymers like Pdms.
Micro-droplets of nematic liquid crystal [1-(trans-4-Hexylcyclohexyl)-4-isothiocyanatobenzene (6CHBT)] aligned by pyroelectric effect along electric field lines, deposited onto a polymer-covered lithium niobate substrate. The picture was taken at the CNR-INO lab of microscopy (Napoli, Italy) by an optical microscope working in brightfield and in a transmission configuration, using a 20x objective. The real dimensions are 150x150 microns.
The LC is deposited onto a substrate made of lithium niobate crystal and Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) polymer. After heating on a hot plate, big liquid crystal drops fragment in smaller droplets. Then, during cooling at room temperature, droplets arrange themselves in the way shown in the picture, guided by the electric field lines generated by pyroelectric effect (lithium niobate is a pyroelectric crystal). More details about the process leading to this particular configuration of liquid crystal droplets can be found in the paper by Wiley: DOI: 10.1002/adfm.201200323
Jury comment: This LC picture is just like a beautiful bird "peacock" when I saw it in the first time. At the beginning of 2014, I select this picture because in Asian culture peacock means happiness, freedom and peace. At the beginning of 2014, by this gorgeous LC picture taken by Francesco, I would like to wish everyone to have a wonderful 2014.