Very interesting effects can be observed when maneuvering liquid crystal droplets onto functionalized polar dielectric crystal surfaces. It has been discovered that the pyroelectric effect is able to drive a reversible fragmentation process in liquid crystal drops, starting from nanoliter drops and obtaining pico/femtoliter droplets. These small droplets are patterned according to the geometry of the substrate and aligned along the electric field lines.
This novel approach for manipulating liquid crystals by a thermal stimulus could be suitable for applications such as spatial modulation of wettability (i.e. wettability patterning), or, in principle, a dynamical optical element able to switch from a diffuser (fragmentation state) to a microlens array (coalescence state). The coalescence effect could be helped by an appropriate micropatterning of the substrate allowing for microlenses in fixed locations.