Journal of the American Chemical Society

Solute-solvent interactions and chiral induction in liquid crystals.

PMID 16104751


The induction of a cholesteric phase by doping an achiral nematic liquid crystal with an enantiopure solute is a phenomenon that, as in all general supramolecular phenomena of chiral amplification, depends in a subtle way on intermolecular interactions. The micrometric helical deformation of the phase director in the cholesteric phase is generated by the interplay of anisotropy and chirality of probe-medium interactions. In the case of a flexible chiral dopant, the solvent can influence the twisting power in two ways, difficult to disentangle: it is responsible for the solute orientational order, an essential ingredient for the emergence of phase chirality; but also it can affect the dopant conformational distribution and then the chirality of the structures present in the solution. In this work we have investigated methyl phenyl sulfoxide, a flexible, chiral molecule that, when dissolved in different nematics, can produce cholesteric phases of opposite handedness. This peculiar, intriguing sensitivity to the environment makes MPS a suitable probe for a thorough investigation of the effects of solute-solvent interactions on chiral induction in liquid crystals. NMR experiments in various nematic solvents have been performed in addition to twisting power measurements. From the analysis of partially averaged 1H-1H and 13C-1H dipolar couplings, the effects of solvent on solute conformation and orientational order are disentangled, and this information is combined with the modeling of the chirality of intermolecular interactions, within a molecular field theory. The integration of different techniques allows an unprecedented insight into the role of solvent in mediating the chirality transfer from molecule to phase.

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Methyl phenyl sulfoxide, ≥97%