Spherical-cap droplets of a photo-responsive bent liquid crystal dimer†
Using a photo-responsive dimer exhibiting the transition between nematic (N) and twist-bend nematic (NTB) phases, we prepared spherical cap-shaped droplets on solid substrates exposed to air. The internal director structures of these droplets vary depending on the phase and on the imposed boundary conditions. The structural switching between the N and NTB phases was successfully performed either by temperature control or by UV light-irradiation. The N phase is characterized by an extremely small bend elastic constant K3, and surprisingly, we found that the droplet–air interface induces a planar alignment, in contrast to that seen for typical calamitic liquid crystals. As a consequence, the director configuration was stabilized in a structure substantially different from that normally found in conventional nematic liquid crystalline droplets. In the twist-bend nematic droplets characteristic structures with macroscopic length scales were formed, and they were well controlled by the droplet size. These results indicated that a continuum theory is effective in describing the stabilization mechanism of the macroscopic structure even in the twist-bend nematic liquid crystal droplets exhibiting director modulations on a scale of several molecular lengths.