Liquid crystal quenched orientational disorder at an AFM-scribed alignment surface
A polyimide substrate was scribed using the stylus of an atomic force microscope, then covered with a nematic liquid crystal. The fiber from a near field scanning optical microscope was immersed into the liquid crystal and rastered approximately 80 nm above the surface, thereby obviating smearing effects that occur in thicker samples. By appropriate averaging of multiple data sets, a histogram of the “frozen-in” director deviation Δφ from the average easy axis was obtained, having a full-width-half-maximum of ∼0.02 rad. Additionally, the spatial autocorrelation function of Δφ was extracted, where the primary correlation length was found to be comparable to, but larger than, the liquid crystal's extrapolation length. A secondary characteristic length scale of a few μm was observed, and is thought to be an artifact due to material ejection during the scribing process. Our results demonstrate the utility of nanoscale imaging of the interface behavior inside the liquid crystal.