Multiple-wavelength surface patterns in models of biological chiral liquid crystal membranes
We present a model to investigate the formation of surface patterns in biological materials through the interaction of anisotropic interfacial tension, bending elasticity, and capillarity at their free surfaces. Focusing on the cholesteric liquid crystal (CLC) material model, the generalized shape equation for anisotropic interfaces using the Rapini–Papoular anchoring and Helfrich free energies is applied to understand the formation of multi-length scale patterns, such as those found in floral petals. The chiral liquid crystal-membrane model is shown to be analogous to a driven pendulum, a connection that enables generic pattern classification as a function of bending elasticity, liquid crystal chirality and anchoring strength. The unique pattern-formation mechanism emerging from the model here presented is based on the nonlinear interaction between bending-driven folding and anchoring-driven creasing. The predictions are shown to capture accurately the two-scale wrinkling of certain tulips. These new findings enable not only to establish a new paradigm for characterizing surface wrinkling in biological liquid crystals, but also to inspire the design of functional surface structures.