Molecular organization in the twist–bend nematic phase by resonant X-ray scattering at the Se K-edge and by SAXS, WAXS and GIXRD†
Using a magnetically aligned liquid crystal mixture containing a novel Se-labelled dimer and the difluoroterphenyl dimer DTC5C7, the twist–bend nematic phase (Ntb) was studied by the resonant scattering of hard X-rays and by conventional small and wide-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS, WAXS). Resonant diffraction spots indicated a helix with a 9–12 nm pitch in the Ntb phase and an unprecedentedly high helix orientation. This enabled deconvolution of global and local order parameters. These findings, combined with the simultaneously recorded resonant and non-resonant SAXS and WAXS data, allowed us to construct a locally layered molecular model of the Ntb phase, where the average twisted conformation of each molecule was idealised as a helical segment, matching the local heliconical director field. The dimers were found to be less bent in the Ntb phase than in their minimum energy conformation, and straightening further with increasing temperature. It is proposed that on further heating their low bend angle allows the transition to the normal nematic phase, where the molecules can freely move longitudinally, without the need to perform screw-like motion as in the Ntb phase. At the low-temperature end, the increasing molecular twist becomes unsustainable, leading to a transition to a smectic phase, where no twist is required.