Hierarchical assembly of smectic liquid crystal defects at undulated interfaces†
The assembly of topological defects in liquid crystals has drawn significant interest in the last decade due to their ability to trap colloidal objects and direct their arrangements. They have also brought about a high impact in modern technologies, in particular in optics, e.g., microlens arrays, soft lithography templates, and optically selective masks. Here we study the formation of defects in smectic A liquid crystal with hybrid texture at undulated surfaces. We investigate the role of surface topography on the organization of focal conic domains (FCDs) in smectic films. We demonstrate new methods for assembling FCDs and disclinations into hierarchical structures. When the liquid crystal is heated to the nematic phase, we observe stable defect lines forming at specific locations. These defects are created to satisfy anchoring conditions and the geometry of confinement imposed by the boundaries. Once the liquid crystal is cooled to the smectic A phase, the disclinations maintain their positions, but periodic structures of reversible FCDs facing opposite directions arise between them. We report the correlation between the size of these FCDs and their eccentricities with the morphology of the interface. This work paves the way for creating new procedures to control the assembly of functional nanomaterials into tunable assemblies that may find relevance in the field of energy technology including in optoelectronic and photonic applications.