10/23/2003 - Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) announced that the European Physical Society (EPS) has awarded the 2003 Agilent Technologies Europhysics Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Condensed Matter Physics to two scientists for their pioneering work in the field of polymer liquid crystals. Heino Finkelmann (Germany) and Mark Warner (England) were honored for the discovery and study of this unusual new class of materials.
Liquid-crystal elastomers combine the unique properties of rubber-like polymers and liquid crystals. The union of these previously disparate fields has resulted in the discovery of remarkable new materials with unique properties. These may enable exciting new applications such as artificial muscles for robotics or lasers that can be tuned by stretching a rubber-like membrane.
"This is exactly the kind of breakthrough that has fueled the technology field for years," said Jim Hollenhorst, director of Electronics Research at Agilent Laboratories, Agilent's central research lab. "Many of the most important device innovations have come from the discovery of new materials with interesting properties."
Since 1975, the Europhysics Prize has been given to leading scientists in nearly every important area of condensed matter physics. It is one of the most prestigious awards given by the EPS, with eight past recipients winning the Nobel Prize in physics or chemistry subsequent to receiving the Europhysics Prize.
Agilent funds the prize by annual donations to the EPS. The prize includes a cash award of 51,000 Swiss francs and is given in recognition of scientific excellence in basic or applied research in the physics of solids and liquids. Particular emphasis is placed on recent work that leads to advances in the fields of electronic, electrical and materials engineering. A committee appointed by the EPS, which includes one representative from Agilent Labs, selects the recipients.
Liquid crystals are an unusual class of materials that exhibit the highly ordered properties of a solid crystal but behave in most other respects like a liquid. This gives them unique optical properties that are exploited to make liquid-crystal displays (LCDs), familiar to users of laptops or mobile phones. Some polymers also have unusual properties. For example, rubber, though a solid, can be stretched well beyond the limits of more conventional solids, making it useful for elastic bands and automobile tires. By combining these two unusual materials, even more interesting properties can be obtained.
Finkelmann and Warner have demonstrated that temperature change or the application of voltage can cause remarkable shape changes in polymer liquid crystals. These effects could be used to create artificial muscles that stretch or shrink under electronic control. Pronounced changes in the optical properties also occur when the material is stretched or squeezed. A laser has already been demonstrated whose color can be tuned by simply stretching a rubber-like membrane.
The work of Finkelmann and Warner has led not only to the discovery of these new materials but to advances in the theoretical understanding of these and other materials. In fact, in its citation the EPS committee particularly recognized the "brilliant interplay of theory and experiment" that characterizes this work. Finkelmann is a professor in the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry at the University of Freiburg in Germany. Warner is a professor of physics in the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge in England. More information about the prize can be found at www.agilent.com/ contributions/europhysics.html.
Agilent philanthropy programs, which fund the award, sponsor equipment grants and inquiry into research and technologies that address Agilent's strategic focus in the areas of electronics, telecommunications, life sciences and chemical analysis. Information about the philanthropy programs is available on the Web at www.agilent.com/univ_relation and www.agilent.com/contributions.
About Agilent Laboratories
Agilent Laboratories is one of the leading technological research centers in the world. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., Agilent Laboratories draws on the talents of more than 300 researchers and support staff. It conducts applied research in communications, electronics, the life sciences, and measurement; fundamental research in bioscience, fiber optics, materials, microelectronics, micromechanical systems and optoelectronics; and basic research. Agilent Laboratories is focused on driving growth and profit for Agilent's businesses through technology innovation. Information about Agilent Laboratories can be found at www.labs.agilent.com.
About Agilent Technologies
Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) is a global technology leader in communications, electronics, life sciences and chemical analysis. The company's 30,000 employees serve customers in more than 110 countries. Agilent had net revenue of $6 billion in fiscal year 2002. Information about Agilent is available on the Web at www.agilent.com.
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