The hierarchical self-assembly of disc-shaped molecules leads to the formation of discotic liquid crystals. These materials are of fundamental importance not only as models for the study of energy and charge migration in self-organized systems but also as functional materials for device applications such as, one-dimensional conductors, photoconductors, light emitting diodes, photovoltaic solar cells, field-effect transistors and gas sensors. The negative birefringence films formed by polymerized nematic discotic liquid crystals have been commercialized as compensation foils to enlarge the viewing angle of commonly used twisted nematic liquid crystal displays. To date the number of discotic liquid crystals derived from more than 50 different cores comes to about 3000. This critical review describes, after an in-depth introduction, recent advances in basic design principles and synthetic approaches towards the preparation of most frequently encountered discotic liquid crystals.
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