Dark conglomerate phases of azobenzene derived bent-core mesogens – relationships between the molecular structure and mirror symmetry breaking in soft matter†
New 4-bromoresorcinol based bent-core molecules with peripheral fluoro substituted azobenzene wings have been synthesized and the liquid crystalline self-assembly was investigated by differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), optical polarizing microscopy (POM), electro-optic studies and X-ray diffraction (XRD). A new type of optically isotropic mesophase composed of chiral domains with opposite handedness (dark conglomerate phases, DC phases) is observed, which for some homologues with medium alkyl chain length is stable down to ambient temperature. It is proposed that these DC phases are formed by helical twisted nano-domains of limited size and composed of the crystallized aromatic cores which are separated by the disordered alkyl chains. This structure is distinct from the previously known soft helical nano-filament phases (HNF phases, B4 phases) formed by extended crystalline nano-filaments and also distinct from the fluid sponge phases composed of deformed fluid layers. Comparison with related bent-core molecules having H, F, Cl, I, CH3 and CN groups in the 4-position at the resorcinol core, either with or without additional peripheral fluorines, provided information about the effects of these substituents on the tendency to form DC phases. Based on these relationships and by comparison with the minimum energy conformations obtained by DFT calculations a hypothesis is provided for the formation of DC phases depending on the molecular structure.