Fabrication of pixelated liquid crystal nanostructures employing the contact line instabilities of droplets
A liquid crystal (LC) droplet resting on a poly-dimethylsiloxane substrate could rapidly spread upon solvent vapour annealing to form a non-uniform film. While the solvophobic surfaces restricted the spreading of the droplet to form a thicker film upon solvent annealing, the solvophilic substrates allowed the formation of a thinner film under similar conditions. Withdrawal of the solvent exposure caused rapid evaporation of the solvent molecules from the film, especially near the retracting contact-line to form microscale LC-droplets, which shrunk into nanoscopic ones after evaporation of the excess solvent. The thinner films on solvophilic surfaces allowed the formation of droplets with smaller size and periodicity as small as ∼100 nm and ∼200 nm, respectively. Furthermore, the use of a patterned substrate could impose a large-area ordering on the nanodroplets. A theoretical model for an evaporating film of LC-solution revealed that the spacing of nanodroplets could be decided by the interplay of stabilizing and destabilizing components of capillary force while van der Waals interaction played a supportive role when the film was ultrathin near the contact line. The micro/nanodroplets thus formed showed an anomalous oscillatory rotational motion originating from the difference in the Laplace pressure near contact lines under the influence of an external electric field. The application of the Lorenz force to these droplets showed translation and rotational motions followed by ejection of satellite droplets.