Nontrivial topological defects of micro-rods immersed in nematics and their phototuning
Combinations of different geometries and surface anchoring conditions give rise to the diversity of topological structures in nematic colloid systems. Tuning these parameters in a single system offers possibilities for observing the evolution of the topological transformation and for manipulating colloids through topological forces. Here we investigate the nontrivial topological properties of micro-rods dispersed in nematic liquid crystals through experimental observation and computer simulation. The topological variation is driven by photodynamically changing the surface anchoring using azobenzene-based surface-commander molecules, the majority of which are localized on both the substrates and the surface of micro-rods. By comparing experimental and simulation results, we show previously unidentified topological properties of the two-body LC–rod-colloid system. Moreover, unlike the traditional photoresponsive liquid crystal systems, the localization of azobenzene molecules on the surfaces makes it possible to change only the direction of the surface orientation, not disordering of the bulk structures. The results assist in the development of photo-driven micro-robotics in fluids.