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See detailMeasuring the Anisotropy in Interfacial Tension of Nematic Liquid Crystals
Honaker, Lawrence; Sharma, Anjali UL; Schanen, Andy et al

in Crystals (2021), 11(6), 687

<jats:p>Liquid crystal (LC) phases typically show anisotropic alignment-dependent properties, such as viscosity and dielectric permittivity, so it stands to reason that LCs also have anisotropic ... [more ▼]

<jats:p>Liquid crystal (LC) phases typically show anisotropic alignment-dependent properties, such as viscosity and dielectric permittivity, so it stands to reason that LCs also have anisotropic interfacial tensions. Measuring the interfacial tension ? of an LC with conventional methods, such as pendant drops, can be challenging, however, especially when we need to know ? for different LC aligning conditions, as is the case when we seek ??, the interfacial tension anisotropy. Here, we present measurements of ?? of the common synthetic nematic LC compound 5CB against water using a microfluidic droplet aspiration technique. To ensure tangential and normal alignment, respectively, we add poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA) and sodium dodecylsulfate (SDS), respectively, as a stabilizer and measure ? for different concentrations of stabilizer. By fitting the Szyszkowski equation to the data, we can extrapolate to zero-stabilizer concentration, obtaining the ? of 5CB to pure water for each alignment. For normal alignment, we find ??=31.9?0.8 mN?m-1, on the order of 1 mN?m-1 greater than ?$_$=30.8?5 mN?m-1 for tangential alignment. This resonates with the empirical knowledge that 5CB aligns tangentially to an interface with pure water. The main uncertainty arises from the use of polymeric PVA as tangential-promoting stabilizer. Future improvements in accuracy may be expected if PVA can be replaced by a low molar mass stabilizer that ensures tangential alignment.</jats:p [less ▲]

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See detailLiquid crystal elastomer shells with topological defect-defined actuation: Complex shape morphing, opening/closing, and unidirectional rotation
Sharma, Anjali UL; Stoffel, A. M.; Lagerwall, Jan UL

in Journal of Applied Physics (2021), 129(17), 174701

We produce hollow sphere liquid crystal elastomer (LCE) actuators from a nematic precursor mixture, brought into the shape of a self-closing shell with tangential anchoring of the director field n(r ... [more ▼]

We produce hollow sphere liquid crystal elastomer (LCE) actuators from a nematic precursor mixture, brought into the shape of a self-closing shell with tangential anchoring of the director field n(r), using a solvent-assisted microfluidic technique. By separating the shell production from the polymerization and cross-linking, the precursor is allowed to approach its equilibrium n(r) configuration in the shell, spontaneously forming topological defects of total strength +2. However, the photopolymerization into an LCE induces a brief but strong distortion of the overall n(r) and the defect configuration, even changing the ground state shape in the case of thick shells. The resulting LCE shells show a rich capacity for reversible shape morphing upon heating and cooling, the exact actuation mode defined by n(r), and the final defect configuration stabilized at the end of polymerization. In regions with a single +1 defect, a reversal of curvature from concave to convex is found, punctured shells exhibit a strong shape change between a nearly closed sphere at low temperature and an open-ended spherocylinder at high temperature, and all shells rotate upon actuation when suspended in a fluid. As the rotation is stronger during relaxation than during actuation, thus breaking the symmetry, the net rotation is unidirectional. [less ▲]

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See detailRealignment of Liquid Crystal Shells Driven by Temperature- Dependent Surfactant Solubility
Sharma, Anjali UL; Jampani, Venkata UL; Lagerwall, Jan UL

in Langmuir (2019), 35(2019), 1113211140

We investigate dynamic director field variations in shells of the nematic liquid crystal (LC) compound, 4-cyano-4′-pentylbiphenyl, suspended in and containing immiscible aqueous phases. The outer and ... [more ▼]

We investigate dynamic director field variations in shells of the nematic liquid crystal (LC) compound, 4-cyano-4′-pentylbiphenyl, suspended in and containing immiscible aqueous phases. The outer and inner shell interfaces are stabilized by the cationic surfactant, cetyl trimethyl ammonium bromide (CTAB), and by the water soluble polymer, poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA), respectively. PVA and surfactant solutions normally promote tangential and orthogonal alignments, respectively, of the LC director. The rather high Krafft temperature of CTAB, TK ≈25 °C, means that its solubility in water is below the critical micelle concentration at room temperature in most labs. Here,we study the effect of cooling/heating past TK on the LC shell director configuration. Within a certain concentration range,CTAB in the outer aqueous phase (and PVA in the inner) switches the LC director field from hybrid to uniformly orthogonal upon cooling below TK. We argue that the effect is related to the migration of the surfactant through the fluid LC membraneinto the initially surfactant-free aqueous PVA solution, triggered by the drastically reduced water solubility of CTAB at T < TK.The results suggest that LC shells can detect solutes in the continuous phase, provided there is sufficient probability that thesolute migrates through the LC into the inner aqueous phase. [less ▲]

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See detailInfluence of head group and chain length of surfactants used for stabilising liquid crystal shells
Sharma, Anjali UL; Lagerwall, Jan UL

in Liquid Crystals (2018), 45(13-15), 2319-2328

We investigate the stability and textural development in nematic liquid crystal (LC) shells, with aqueous interior and exterior, as a function of the type and concentration of surfactant stabiliser of the ... [more ▼]

We investigate the stability and textural development in nematic liquid crystal (LC) shells, with aqueous interior and exterior, as a function of the type and concentration of surfactant stabiliser of the shell interfaces. The LC is the common thermotropic nematic 5CB and the surfactants are commercial, of cat- as well as of anionic type, with varying alkyl chain length. In addition to stabilising the shell interfaces, surfactants are generally assumed to promote radial (homeotropic) LC alignment, based on prior studies where the surfactant concentration was well above the critical micelle concentration (CMC). Here, we focus on the low-concentration range, below CMC. We find that both cat- and anionic surfactants can stabilise shells, although the higher water solubility of cationics can render stabilisation more difficult. We also conclude that surfactants do not necessarily impose homeotropic alignment; if the surfactant concentration is very low, the director may adopt planar alignment at the 5CB–water interface. Interestingly, the threshold concentration, where the surfactant takes control of alignment, is different for the shell inside and outside. Shells stabilised by solutions of surfactant with concentration near the threshold may therefore adopt a hybrid configuration, with homeotropic inside and planar outside. [less ▲]

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