Journal of colloid and interface science

Ordering transitions in micrometer-thick films of nematic liquid crystals driven by self-assembly of ganglioside GM1.

PMID 19428021


We report an investigation of the self-assembly of the monosialoganglioside (GM(1)) at interfaces formed between aqueous solutions of 10 microM GM(1) (at 25 degrees C) and micrometer-thick films of the nematic liquid crystal (LC) 4'-pentyl-4-cyanobiphenyl (5CB). We observe the process of spontaneous transfer of GM(1) onto the interfaces to be accompanied by continuous ordering transitions within the micrometer-thick films of the LC. At saturation coverage, the GM(1) orders the LC in an orientation that is perpendicular to the interface, an orientation that is similar to that caused by phospholipids such as dilauroylphosphatidylcholine (DLPC). This result suggests an interaction between the LC and GM(1) that is dominated by the hydrophobic tails of the GM(1). Relative to DLPC, however, we observe the dynamics of the LC ordering transition driven by GM(1) to be slow (2 h for DLPC versus 100 h for GM(1)). To provide insight into the origins of the slow dynamics of the GM(1)-induced ordering transition in the LC, we performed two additional measurements. First, we quantified the time-dependent adsorption of GM(1) at the LC interface by using fluorescently-labeled GM(1). Second, we used the Langmuir-Schaefer method to transfer preorganized monolayers of GM(1) from an air-water interface to the aqueous-LC interface. Results obtained from these two experiments are consistent with a physical picture in which the final stages of spontaneous adsorption/ordering of GM(1) at the aqueous-LC interface dictate the dynamics of the LC ordering transition. This rate limiting process underlying the ordering transition was substantially accelerated by heating the system above the phase transition temperature of GM(1)(26 degrees C), suggesting that the phase state of the GM(1) micellar aggregates in bulk solution strongly influences the kinetics of the final stages of ordering/adsorption of GM(1) at the LC interface. Overall, these results and others presented in this manuscript reveal that it is possible to decorate interfaces of a nematic LC with GM(1), and that the assembly of GM(1) at these interfaces impacts the dynamic and equilibrium ordering of the LC.