Pretransitional behavior of viscoelastic parameters at the nematic to twist-bend nematic phase transition in flexible n-mers†
We report dynamic light scattering measurements of the orientational (Frank) elastic constants and associated viscosities among a homologous series of a liquid crystalline dimer, trimer, and tetramer exhibiting a uniaxial nematic (N) to twist-bend nematic (NTB) phase transition. The elastic constants for director splay (K11), twist (K22) and bend (K33) exhibit the relations K11 > K22 > K33 and K11/K22 > 2 over the bulk of the N phase. Their behavior near the N–NTB transition shows dependency on the parity of the number (n) of the rigid mesomorphic units in the flexible n-mers. Namely, the bend constant K33 in the dimer and tetramer turns upward and starts increasing close to the transition, following a monotonic decrease through most of the N phases. In contrast, K33 for the trimer flattens off just above the transition and shows no pretransitional enhancement. The twist constant K22 increases pretransitionally in both even and odd n-mers, but more weakly so in the trimer, while K11 increases steadily on cooling without evidence of pretransitional behavior in any n-mer. The viscosities associated with pure splay, twist-dominated twist-bend, and pure bend fluctuations in the N phase are comparable in magnitude to those of rod-like monomers. All three viscosities increase with decreasing temperature, but the bend viscosity in particular grows sharply near the N–NTB transition. The N–NTB pretransitional behavior is shown to be in qualitative agreement with the predictions of a coarse-grained theory, which models the NTB phase as a “pseudo-layered” structure with the symmetry (but not the mass density wave) of a smectic-A* phase.