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See detailTopological Defect-Guided Regular Stacking of Focal Conic Domains in Hybrid-Aligned Smectic Liquid Crystal Shells
Noh, Junghyun; Lagerwall, Jan UL

in Crystals (2021), 11(8), 913

We study liquid crystal (LC) shells in hybrid configuration (director tangential to the inside but normal to the outside) as they slowly undergo a transition from a nematic (N) to a smectic-A (SmA) phase ... [more ▼]

We study liquid crystal (LC) shells in hybrid configuration (director tangential to the inside but normal to the outside) as they slowly undergo a transition from a nematic (N) to a smectic-A (SmA) phase. Every shell has two antipodal +1 topological defects, at the thinnest and thickest points, respectively. On cooling from N to SmA, the symmetry axis connecting the defects gradually reorients from blackalong gravity to perpendicular to it, reversibly and continuously, if the LC and aqueous phase are density matched at the N-SmA transition. This suggests reduced density near the defects---reflecting a local reduction in order---under the strong confinement with antagonistic boundary conditions. In the SmA phase, a regular array of focal conic domains (FCDs) develops, templated in position and orientation by the +1 defect at the thinnest point. Around this defect, a single complete toroidal FCD always develops, surrounded by incomplete FCDs. In contrast to similar FCD arrangements on flat aqueous interfaces, this is a stable situation, since the two +1 defects are required by the spherical topology. Our results demonstrate how the topological defects of LC shells can be used to template complex self-organized structures. blackWith a suitable adaption of the LC chemistry, shells might serve as a basis for producing solid particles with complex yet highly regular morphologies. [less ▲]

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See detailDynamic tuning of the director field in liquid crystal shells using block copolymers
Noh, Junghyun; Wang, Yiwei; Liang, Hsin-Ling et al

in Physical Review Research (2020), 2(3), 033160

When an orientationally ordered system, like a nematic liquid crystal (LC), is confined on a self-closing spherical shell, topological constraints arise with intriguing consequences that depend critically ... [more ▼]

When an orientationally ordered system, like a nematic liquid crystal (LC), is confined on a self-closing spherical shell, topological constraints arise with intriguing consequences that depend critically on how the LC is aligned in the shell. We demonstrate reversible dynamic tuning of the alignment, and thereby the topology, of nematic LC shells stabilized by the nonionic amphiphilic block copolymer Pluronic F127. Deep in the nematic phase, the director (the average molecule orientation) is tangential to the interface, but upon approaching the temperature TNI of the nematic-isotropic transition, the director realigns to normal. We link this to a delicate interplay between an interfacial tension that is nearly independent of director orientation, and the configuration-dependent elastic deformation energy of an LC confined in a shell. The process is primarily triggered by the heating-induced reduction of the nematic order parameter, hence realignment temperatures differ by several tens of degrees between LCs with high and low TNI, respectively. The temperature of realignment is always lower on the positive-curved shell outside than at the negative-curved inside, yielding a complex topological reconfiguration on heating. Complementing experimental investigations with mathematical modeling and computer simulations, we identify and investigate three different trajectories, distinguished by their configurations of topological defects in the initial tangential-aligned shell. Our results uncover a new aspect of the complex response of LCs to curved confinement, demonstrating that the order of the LC itself can influence the alignment and thereby the topology of the system. They also reveal the potential of amphiphilic block copolymer stabilizers for enabling continuous tunability of LC shell configuration, opening doors for in-depth studies of topological dynamics as well as novel applications in, e.g., sensing and programed soft actuators. [less ▲]

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