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In this activity, learners explore liquid crystals, light and temperature. Using a postcard made of temperature-sensitive liquid crystal material, learners monitor temperature changes. By observing these changes, learners show that dark materials absorb and reemit the energy contained in light more readily than light-colored materials. Learners can also distinguish energy absorbed and reemited by radiation, convection, and conduction by comparing the behavior of black, white, and silver objects. This resource guide includes detailed explanation of the phenomenon and background information about liquid crystals.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per student)

  • Temperature-sensitive liquid crystal material
  • Desk lamp, slide projector, or sunlight
  • A black marking pen
  • A metallic silver marking pen


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Nanotechnology
  • Life Sciences
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Vision
  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat and Temperature
    • Vibration and Waves
    • Light and Optics
      • Electromagnetic Spectrum
      • Reflection and Refraction
    • States of Matter
      • Liquids
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation
  • California Department of Education
  • NEC Foundation of America