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Liquid crystal

transforming digital displays North East,

Close-up of a digital watch with a metallic casing.
A Waltham quartz crystal watch with LCD movement by SGT. Science Museum/ Science & Society Picture Library

Our lives are full of digital displays: clocks, watches, DVD players and computer or TV screens. Many of these make use of liquid crystal display (LCD) technology. Molecules in the liquid crystals have the structure of a solid, but can flow and drip like a liquid. When exposed to an electric current, the crystals change their optical properties in a predictable way.

Although the liquid crystalline nature of some materials was discovered in the 19th century, it took until the mid 20th century for a practical form to be discovered. George Gray (born 1926) and his research team at the University of Hull had been studying liquid crystals for a number of years, eventually developing cyanobiphenyl liquid crystals - the first to be stable at room temperature - in 1973.

Not long after this Gray and his team developed this into LCD technology. These new thin, light, low-powered displays were an overnight success, appearing in a range of electronic devices. In 1995 Gray received the Kyoto Prize for Advanced Technology.

Science Museum

Decade
Type
Computing, Chemistry,
Region
North East
Location
University of Hull
Key Individuals
George Gray,