Influence of interface stabilisers and surrounding aqueous phases on nematic liquid crystal shells†
We investigate the nematic–isotropic (N–I) transition in shells of the liquid crystal 5CB, surrounded by aqueous phases that conventionally are considered to be immiscible with 5CB. The aqueous phases contain either sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) or polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) as stabiliser, the former additionally promoting homeotropic director alignment. For all shell configurations we find a depression of the clearing point compared to pure 5CB, indicating that a non-negligible fraction of the constituents of the surrounding phases enter the shell, predominantly water. In hybrid-aligned shells, with planar outer and homeotropic inner boundary (or vice versa), the N–I transition splits into two steps, with a consequent three-step textural transformation. We explain this as a result of the order-enhancing effect of a monolayer of radially aligned SDS molecules adsorbed at the homeotropic interface.