Soft modes of the dielectric response in the twist–bend nematic phase and identification of the transition to a nematic splay bend phase in the CBC7CB dimer
The dielectric spectra of the twist–bend nematic phase (NTB) of (the bent-shaped) achiral liquid-crystal dimer 1′′-,7′′-bis(4-cyanobiphenyl-4′-yl)heptane (CB7CB) are studied for the determination of the different relaxation modes. Two molecular processes and one collective process were observed in the megahertz frequency range. Two molecular processes were assigned: one to the precessional rotation of the longitudinal components of the cyanobiphenyl groups and the second one to the spinning rotation of the transverse component of the CB7CB dimer. The peak, at a frequency of about 1 MHz, shows a peculiar temperature behavior at the NTB to N transition, reminiscent of the soft mode at the transition from the SmA to the SmC phase. This peak can be assigned to a collective fluctuation of the tilt angle of the coarse grained director N with respect to the pseudo-layer normal. This corresponds well with the electro-clinic effect observed as a response to an electric field in electro-optic experiments. The low frequency relaxation process, observed in the frequency range of 1 Hz–102 Hz can be identified as a Goldstone mode, related to long-scale fluctuation of the cone phase. The frequency drop of the mode on increasing the bias field is interpreted as unwinding of a helix and an indication of the formation of a field induced nematic splay bend phase (NSB). This finding is also confirmed by birefringence data in the presence of strong bias fields.