Chun-Wei Chen, featured ILCC liquid crystal artist, January 2018

Chun-Wei (Joe) Chen received his B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in Photonics from National Sun Yat-sen University (Taiwan), under the guidance of Prof. Tsung-Hsien Lin. He is currently studying towards a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University (USA), under the supervision of Prof. Iam Choon Khoo. His research interest includes nonlinear optical phenomena, electro-optic effects, and self-assembly in liquid-crystal cholesteric and blue phases as well as the optical devices based on soft chiral photonic crystals (a list of publications is available at The picture was captured in Prof. Lin's lab when Chun-Wei was investigating the self-assembly of a chiral liquid crystal confined in droplets.
The picture shows chiral nematic liquid crystal droplets dispersed in glycerol, captured under a polarizing optical microscope (Eclipse LV100POL, Nikon) in the reflection mode. The pitch of the chiral nematic is ~270 nm, and the droplets are about 10's–200 μm in diameter. In a submillimeter-sized chiral nematic droplet, the surface anchoring exerted by the glycerol is not strong enough to stabilize the entire droplet into a well-aligned planar texture. One finds that the large droplets exhibit some quasi-periodic fluctuations in the color of reflection. In addition, owing to the stirring procedure during the fabrication, it seems that the droplets were lined up in orbits, just like a microscopic version of a galaxy.
Jury comment: The warm colored homeotropic nematic droplets look like lanterns in the dark winter nights.