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See detailIsotropic-nematic transition and cholesteric phases of helical Yukawa rods
Kuhnhold, Anja UL; Schilling, Tanja UL

in Journal of Chemical Physics (2016), 145(194904),

We present a Monte Carlo simulation study of helical Yukawa rods as a model for chiral liquid crystal mesogens.To simulate the cholesteric phase, we introduce a newsimulation method that uses softwalls ... [more ▼]

We present a Monte Carlo simulation study of helical Yukawa rods as a model for chiral liquid crystal mesogens.To simulate the cholesteric phase, we introduce a newsimulation method that uses softwalls and self-determined boundary conditions. We observe that the isotropic-nematic phase transition is shifted to lower volume fractions with decreasing salt concentration as well as with increasing internal pitch of the rods. For particular sets of interaction parameters, the sense of the cholesteric pitch inverts, i.e., depending on concentration, mesogens of a given handedness can produce cholesteric phases of both chiral senses. [less ▲]

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See detailEnhancing Self-Assembly in Cellulose Nanocrystal Suspensions Using High-Permittivity Solvents
Bruckner, Johanna; Kuhnhold, Anja UL; Honorato Rios, Camila UL et al

in Langmuir (2016)

Helical liquid crystal self-assembly in suspensions of cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs), bioderived nanorods exhibiting excellent mechanical and optical properties, opens attractive routes to sustainable ... [more ▼]

Helical liquid crystal self-assembly in suspensions of cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs), bioderived nanorods exhibiting excellent mechanical and optical properties, opens attractive routes to sustainable production of advanced functional materials. For convenience, in most studies until now, the CNCs were suspended in water, leaving a knowledge gap concerning the influence of the solvent. Using a novel approach for aggregation-free solvent exchange in CNC suspensions, here we show that protic solvents with a high dielectric permittivity εr significantly speed up self-assembly (from days to hours) at high CNC mass fraction and reduce the concentration dependence of the helix period (variation reducing from more than 30 μm to less than 1 μm). Moreover, our computer simulations indicate that the degree of order at constant CNC content increases with increasing εr, leading to a shorter pitch and a reduced threshold for liquid crystallinity. In low-εr solvents, the onset of long-range orientational order is coupled to kinetic arrest, preventing the formation of a helical superstructure. Our results show that the choice of solvent is a powerful parameter for tuning the behavior of CNC suspensions, enhancing our ability to control the self-assembly and thereby harvesting valuable novel cellulose-based materials. [less ▲]

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See detailEquilibrium Liquid Crystal Phase Diagrams and Detection of Kinetic Arrest in Cellulose Nanocrystal Suspensions
Honorato Rios, Camila UL; Kuhnhold, Anja UL; Bruckner, Johanna et al

in Frontiers in Materials (2016), 3

The cholesteric liquid crystal self-assembly of water-suspended cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) into a helical arrangement was observed already more than 20 years ago, and the phenomenon was used to produce ... [more ▼]

The cholesteric liquid crystal self-assembly of water-suspended cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) into a helical arrangement was observed already more than 20 years ago, and the phenomenon was used to produce iridescent solid films by evaporating the solvent or via sol–gel processing. Yet, it remains challenging to produce optically uniform films and to control the pitch reproducibly, reflecting the complexity of the three-stage drying process that is followed in preparing the films. An equilibrium liquid crystal phase formation stage is followed by a non-equilibrium kinetic arrest, which in turn is followed by structural collapse as the remaining solvent is evaporated. Here, we focus on the first of these stages, combining a set of systematic rheology and polarizing optics experiments with computer simulations to establish a detailed phase diagram of aqueous CNC suspensions with two different values of the surface charge, up to the concentration where kinetic arrest sets in. We also study the effect of varying ionic strength of the solvent. Within the cholesteric phase regime, we measure the equilibrium helical pitch as a function of the same parameters. We report a hitherto unnoticed change in character of the isotropic–cholesteric transition at increasing ionic strength, with a continuous weakening of the first-order character up to the point where phase coexistence is difficult to detect macroscopically due to substantial critical fluctuations. [less ▲]

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