Eutectic liquid crystal mixture E7 in nanoporous alumina. Effects of confinement on the thermal and concentration fluctuations†
The eutectic mixture of liquid crystals E7 is studied in confinement by means of thermal and dielectric measurements. The uniform 1-D confinement provided by self-ordered nanoporous alumina leads to a decrease in the nematic to isotropic transition temperature due to interaction with the pore surface, e.g. surface anchoring. The prevalence of certain dynamic modes of relaxation is found to depend on the surface properties of the confining pores. The dynamics (i.e., relaxation times) were found to accelerate with increasing confinement, resulting in a decreasing glass temperature, independent of surface treatment. From the pre- and meta-transitional dependence of the dielectric permittivity on temperature we are able to deduce a weakening effect of confinement on the nematic to isotropic (N/I) transition which allows the determination of a critical pore diameter (in the range from 11 nm to 23 nm) below which the transition becomes continuous. Comparison of the N/I transition of E7 to those of its constituent liquid crystals reveals a significantly weaker transition occurring over a widened temperature range. This suggest the importance of concentration fluctuations in rounding first order phase transitions that are triggered by the different length scales and ranges of nematic stability in E7. The results have an impact beyond the present case and for several soft materials (e.g. oligomers used as OLEDs, polymers, colloids) as it demonstrates the importance of concentration fluctuations in addition to thermal fluctuation on the strength of phase transitions.