Fast switching from isotropic liquids to nematic liquid crystals: rotaxanes as smart fluids
We examine a solution of rod-like piston-rotaxanes, which can switch their length by external excitation (for example optically) from a short state of length L to a long state of length qL. We show that this solution can exhibit a number of different behaviours. In particular it can rapidly switch from an isotropic to a nematic liquid crystalline state. There is a minimum ratio q* = 1.13 for which transitions from a pure isotropic state to a pure nematic state are possible. We present a phase-switching diagram, which gives the six possible behaviours for this system. It turns out that a large fraction of the phase switching diagram is occupied by the transition from a pure isotropic to a pure nematic state.