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Mood Rings in Space?
07.29.03
 
Not exactly, but there's something that NASA and mood rings have in common. The same element that goes into mood rings is being used to enhance the way scientists search for unseen planets.

Liquid crystal displayIt goes back to the discovery of "liquid crystals" in 1888 by Austrian botanist Friedrich Reinitze. Although a tremendous find, liquid crystals stayed in the experimental stage for 80 years. In 1968 RCA made the first Liquid Crystal Display (LCD). Since then the improvement on the technology has been used for a multitude of LCD applications we now enjoy.

Typical LCD

So back to our mood ring. Since it is filled with temperature sensitive thermotropic liquid crystals it changes color according to the body's temperature.

In our watches, calculators, laptop screens, digital clocks, etc. electric current changes the temperature of the crystals which is then translated into the display. Although a simplified explanation of how it all works, its fair to say we've come a long way because of this extraordinary discovery.Artist's rendition of light passing through stacked droplets

Astronomy will benefit by this technology. Using the liquid optics, telescopes could gain a clearer view of the heavens revealing planets that have never been seen before.

3-D stacked layer of liquid crystal droplets

Many experiments done on the International Space Station (ISS) have produced remarkable results. NASA continues to support the research, taking these liquid crystal droplets a step further because of their unlimited potential.

The bending and twisting of light in zero gravity has added a new dimension to liquid crystal development, giving scientists even more encouragement that they're on the right track. It's the unknown that they're so excited about and the potential of its use for human advancement and space exploration.

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2003/25jul_colloids.htm?list998109
 
 
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center and Marshall Space Flight Center