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Nature communications

Artificial web of disclination lines in nematic liquid crystals.


PMID 28855515

Abstract

Disclinations are topological singularities of molecular arrangement in liquid crystals, which typically occur when the average orientation of molecules makes a π rotation along a fictitious closed loop taken inside the liquid crystal. Depending on the sense of molecular rotation, the disclination lines are either of 1/2 or -1/2 strength. When two disclination lines with the opposite strength meet, they are annihilated without trace. It is hence generally considered difficult in the nematic phase to stabilize a condensed array of free-standing disclination lines without the aid of topological objects like colloidal inclusions. Here we show that a free-standing web of 1/2-strength twist disclination lines can be stably formed in thin liquid crystal cells by means of a judicious combination of orientationally patterned confining surfaces fabricated by the micropatterned photoalignment technique. Theoretical model indicates that disclination lines are held apart at the intersection by a repulsive force generated by the Frank elasticity.Disclination lines are topological defects in molecular orientation widely found in liquid crystals. Here Wang et al. use a surface patterning technique to produce a very stable freestanding 3D array of ½ twist disclinations, which could be exploited in a variety of nanometre scale applications.

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