Formation of complex self-assembled aggregates in non-ionic chromonics: dimer and trimer columns, layer structures and spontaneous chirality
Dissipative particle dynamics (DPD) simulations are used to model the aqueous self-assembly of three variants of the non-ionic triphenylene-based chromonic mesogen, TP6EO2M. In the variants studied, one to three of the six methoxy poly(ethylene glycol) chains of TP6EO2M are replaced by short hydrophobic–lipophobic chains, causing a remarkable change in the structure of the mesophases formed. In the 100 wt% limit, corresponding to pure thermotropic phases, complex columnar phases arise, in which the underlying hexagonal packing is supplemented by additional order resulting from microphase separation of hydrophobic–lipophobic regions. With addition of water an array of novel chromonic phases are seen. In these phases supramolecular aggregates form in which hydrophobic–lipophobic chains are excluded from water by the joining together of single molecule chromonic stacks into dimers or trimers. These aggregates form chromonic N and M phases and, in the case of a “Janus mesogen” (with three hydrophobic–lipophobic chains on one side of the molecule), form a novel smectic chromonic phase. Spontaneous symmetry breaking is seen in columns composed of trimer stacks with defects. Here achiral molecular aggregates develop a spontaneous twist, inducing the formation of either left-handed or right-handed chiral aggregates. On the long time-scales accessible to DPD simulations, chiral aggregates are seen to be dynamic structures in which chirality inversion can take place over long periods of time.