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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

Computing, Chemistry,
North East
University of Hull
Key Individuals
George Gray,