Order, disorder and stretching of a smectic elastomer with ‘side-on’ mesogenic side groups
We report an X-ray study of the order in a ‘side-on’ smectic-A elastomer in which both the polymer backbone and the mesogenic side groups are, on average, parallel to the smectic layer normal. The present system shows in all phases locally correlated structures as evidenced by systematic diffuse scattering at small angles, attributed to the fluorinated end groups of the mesogens. The elastomer shows order of the smectic layers over a limited range in spite of the relatively low crosslink concentration (4%). Upon stretching along the layer normal we find a linear increase of the smectic layer period for small loading (elastic regime). These changes parallel the stress variation for the elastic part of the macroscopic stress–strain curve and saturate at larger strains. The attendant increase in the width of the X-ray peaks indicates a decrease of the average domain dimensions. In the plastic regime no distortion of the smectic monodomain structure or layer rotation is observed. Instead the stress is relieved by ‘melting’ of the layer structure giving rise to a nematic-like state with short-range layer correlations: at the final stage about four smectic layers.