Kirsten Harth, featured ILCC liquid crystal artist, December 2013

Kirsten Harth lives in Magdeburg, Germany. She studied physics and mathematics at the Otto-von-Guericke University, focussing on hydrodynamics and liquid crystals. Currently, she is working as a PhD student under supervision of Prof. Ralf Stannarius in the field of pattern formation and dynamics in free-standing smectic films. A second focus of her research is granular materials and micro-gravity experiments. Main fields of interest are pattern formation, granular matter, and hydrodynamics in experiments and simulation. Kirsten Harth enjoys herself by performing music (as a singer/accordionist in her band), learning languages and travelling.
The picture shows a frustrated pattern in a free-standing smectic C film between crossed polarizers. The Schlieren texture represents a continuous rotation of the c-director. Film thickness increases with increasing distance from the center of the "vortex" - various plateaus are seen in different shades of turquoise. As the director prefers a tangential orientation at thickness steps, the Schlieren texture is locally distorted. The real height of the image area is 1,000 µm.

Jury comment: This extraordinary image of a SmC free standing film between crossed polarizers stands out for especially beautiful color and clarity, in addition to the unusual texture. The jury was also attracted to the apparent "vortex" in the lower left corner, which gives the image a kinetic quality, as if the rest of the texture is being sucked into the vortex.