A novel chiral phase of achiral hard triangles and an entropy-driven demixing of enantiomers
We investigate the phase behavior of a system of hard equilateral and right-angled triangles in two dimensions using Monte Carlo simulations. Hard equilateral triangles undergo a continuous isotropic–triatic liquid crystal phase transition at packing fraction ϕ = 0.7. Similarly, hard right-angled isosceles triangles exhibit a first-order phase transition from an isotropic fluid phase to a rhombic liquid crystal phase with a coexistence region ϕ ∈ [0.733, 0.782]. Both these liquid crystals undergo a continuous phase transition to their respective close-packed crystal structures at high pressures. Although the particles and their close-packed crystals are both achiral, the solid phases of equilateral and right-angled triangles exhibit spontaneous chiral symmetry breaking at sufficiently high packing fractions. The colloidal triangles rotate either in the clockwise or anti-clockwise direction with respect to one of the lattice vectors for packing fractions higher than ϕχ. As a consequence, these triangles spontaneously form a regular lattice of left- or right-handed chiral holes which are surrounded by six triangles in the case of equilateral triangles and four or eight triangles for right-angled triangles. Moreover, our simulations show a spontaneous entropy-driven demixing transition of the right- and left-handed “enantiomers”.