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The influence on the optical properties of cholesteric liquid crystal displays (LCDs) was examined for neutral molecule binding by mesogen/receptors in the mesomorphic phase. The motivation was to prepare neutral molecule sensors that use a colour change to signal analyte binding. A receptor that binds barbiturate analytes was modified with two or one cholesteryl groups to yield compounds 2 and 3, respectively. LCDs were prepared by incorporating one of the receptor/mesogen compounds into a cholesteric LC blend along with a potential Hbonding guest. The optical properties of the LCDs were then determined by measuring the absorbance of the displays. For various LCDs, the colour of the display depended upon several factors: the amount of guest molecule used, the number of cholesteryl side chains on the receptor and the mole concentration of receptor/mesogen in the blend. In particular, complementary host/guest binding of H-bonding analytes by the bis(cholesteryl) receptor 2 in a cholesteric LCD caused a change of up to +70 nm, which was observed by the naked eye as a blue-to-orange colour change. Control experiments confirm that the colour of an LCD is a consequence of molecular recognition in the mesomorphic phase.

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