A little gem

US researchers have discovered a new type of liquid crystal that is hydrophilic and so has potential applications in medicine and biomedical research. The researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Swarthmore College placed their lyotropic chromonic liquid crystals, or LCLCs, which contain organic salts such as the common food dyes Sunset Yellow or Yellow 6, into water droplets and then put these loaded droplets into oil to form an emulsion. At high enough concentrations within the droplets, the liquid crystals are twisted. But, at higher concentrations still, they form columnar stacks that self-organize into crystal-like structures, transforming the otherwise spherical water droplets into faceted fluid gemstones.