A new approach to electrophoresis is giving researchers more control over how they play with small particles.
Electrophoresis is the movement of particles in solution under a current–a phenomenon that can be exploited for use in everything from ePaper to DNA separating gels. Instead of using a normal fluid to conduct current, researchers led by Oleg Lavrentovich tried using liquid crystals as their conductive fluid.
Liquid crystals, like those seen in the first three pictures above (which might look similar to the patterns you’ve seen when you push on the screen of some of your electronics), act like a fluid. But instead of being a disorganized jumble of molecules, the individual rod-shaped particles line up parallel to each other. When they take on different orientations, they refract different colors of light, a phenomenon called birefringence.