Let’s explore an everyday technology that is truly amazing, if not a bit mind bending. And that is LCD, or liquid crystal display, commonly used in phones, computers and televisions.
The life of an LCD screen sometimes begins in the earth, as many industrial products do. Quartz, of which Silicon is a part, is one of the most abundant minerals on earth, and it comes in many varieties. The structure of quartz is a framework of silicon-oxygen tetrahedra or pryamids.¹
These days quartz doesn’t have to be mined, and it’s probably better if it isn’t. The most common method of industrial production is called “hydrothermal synthesis,” in which crystallization is produced using a water solution plus high temperature and pressure.²
Liquid crystal is made by melting crystal. The resultant liquid flows but maintains its crystalline molecular orientation. They line up in formation. This degree of predictability lends to their use in even the screen of this iPad that I’m typing on.
Variable Electric current is applied to the liquid crystal in order to create/turn on and off light and dark shapes on the screen. The segments can be the pixels of an image.³ And then the light source behind the liquid crystal is LED, or light emitting diodes.
While there is currently a shift to LEDs only in screens, which is simpler, the iPad I’m typing on has the backlit design using both.⁴ As you can see in the photo, the entire screen is a complex sandwich of materials interacting with each other, and that creates beautiful results.
Crystals and crystalline formations or lattices are extremely useful for data transmission, storage and conversion of energy. The most recent incredible application is the Google quantum computing time crystal. You can read more about it at the Quanta magazine link below.