Nematic vs Smectic Phase in LCDs

May 17, 2021

Liquid-crystal display (LCD) has become the world’s leading display technology. More display devices are powered by LCD technology than all other display technologies. Whether you’re shopping for a TV, a computer monitor, a tablet or another display device, you’ll likely encounter it in LCD.

LCD, of course, is a complex display technology that’s centered around the use of liquid pixels. As these pixels activate and deactivate, they may undergo certain changes. The liquid pixels in LCDs specifically have a nematic phase and a smectic phase. What’s the difference between these two phases exactly?

What Is Nematic Phase?

Nematic phase means the liquid pixels in an LCDs are free to move around. They have a liquid-like consistency in which they aren’t restricted to a particular position or orientation. Rather, the liquid pixels can move around when they are in the nematic phase.

What Is Smectic Phase?

Smectic phase, on the other hand, means the liquid pixels in an LCD have a higher viscosity. Viscosity is a measurement of a substance’s liquidity — or the ease at which it can flow. When in the smectic phase, the liquid pixels essentially become thicker. Therefore, they don’t move around as much when compared to the nematic phase.

Some LCDs are designed, in fact, to support liquid pixels in a specific phase. There are twisted nematic LCDs, for instance, that live up to their namesake by supporting the use of nematic-phase liquid LCDs. The crystals used for their liquid pixels are essentially twisted and untwisted, which allows or restricts light to pass through them.

Differences Between Nematic and Smectic Phase in LCDs

The terms “nematic” and “smectic” simply refer to the phase of an LCD’s liquid pixels. Liquid pixels don’t always maintain the same consistency throughout their operation. Rather, their consistency will often change in response to their phase. Some liquid pixels have a thick consistency, whereas others have a more fluid-like consistency. The former phase is smectic, whereas the latter phase is nematic.

In Conclusion

The liquid crystals in LCDs often support two different phases: nematic and smectic. Nematic is the default phase. It involves the liquid pixels being free to move. In comparison, smectic is an alternative phase in which the liquid pixels become thicker and with a higher viscosity. Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of the difference between nematic and smectic phase in LCDs.

If you’re shopping for an LCD, you typically don’t need to worry about the nuances between nematic and smectic. These terms simply refer to the phase of an LCD’s liquid pixels.

Contact Us Today to See How We Can Assist You