Merck, University Leeds collaborate optical liquid crystal
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Merck, University of Leeds collaborate on optical liquid crystal

10:56 AM, 19th May 2017
A liquid crystal tested under heating.
A liquid crystal tested under heating.

DARMSTADT, GERMANY: Merck has signed a five-year research collaboration agreement with the University of Leeds. The aim is to develop new digital optical applications with liquid crystals under the umbrella of the “Emerging Innovation – LC 2021” strategic initiative. As a global market and technology leader for liquid crystals (LC), Merck sees great future potential in optical applications.

The University of Leeds is one of UK’s most renowned research institutions and has recently built a reputation in particular for non-display applications such as switchable contact lenses.

Merck will invest £ 1.0 million in its collaboration with the University of Leeds. Digital eyeglasses, switchable contact lenses, virtual-reality glasses, and other optical instruments are an interesting growth market.

In addition, the partners plan to develop new applications for controlling lighting in homes and cars as well as sensors. Merck’s customers are also increasingly interested in optical applications. Merck is, therefore, intensifying its research activities in LC materials with high birefringence for optical use.

The University of Leeds possesses both the expertise and state-of-the-art facilities in order to conduct feasibility studies and develop prototypes of the devices. The declared goal is also to jointly apply for patents for such applications.

The partnership with Merck coincides with significant investment by the University in both world-class research staff and facilities in this field. Work is well underway in a £ 96 million investment to integrate engineering and physical sciences, bringing together talented physicists, chemists, materials scientists, engineers and computer scientists to address some of the humanity’s greatest challenges. It is due to open in 2020.

“The University of Leeds is an ideal partner for us because the research teams have broad expertise and have the means to build prototypes of the future devices. As for Merck’s role, we’ll concentrate on developing advanced liquid crystal materials specially designed for these new optical applications beyond displays,” said Mark Verrall, head of R&D for the display materials business unit, Merck.

“This exciting research collaboration reflects our determination to develop real-world solutions from science and engineering research. Our university has a strong track record of world-leading research in liquid crystals. Its academics have a growing reputation for inventing applications for liquid crystals way beyond the technology familiar to most of us through flat-screen monitors,” added Sir Alan Langlands, vice-chancellor, University of Leeds.

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