Orientational order in the splay nematic ground state†
Modulated nematic liquid crystal phases, which lack positional order but have some periodic variation in the direction of average orientation present in a classical nematic, have attracted significant interest. In the recently discovered splay nematic (NS) phase the average orientational order is augmented with a periodic splay deformation of orientation perpendicular to the director. We use X-ray scattering experiments to measure the orientational order parameters in the nematic (N) and splay nematic (NS) phases of the liquid crystalline material RM734. The degree of orientational order is somewhat larger in the NS phase than in the preceding nematic and temperature dependent. We reconstruct the orientational distribution function and find it to be nematic-like in the NS phase, indicating the change in orientation between neighbouring molecules due to the splay modulation is very small. A small splay angle implies that the splay modulation period is larger than the few tens of nanometers originally envisaged. The method described herein can be used to assist in unambiguous identification of the splay-nematic phase.