Emergence and stabilization of transient twisted defect structures in confined achiral liquid crystals at a phase transition†
Spontaneous emergence of chirality is a pervasive theme in soft matter. We report a transient twist forming in achiral nematic liquid crystals confined to a capillary tube with square cross section. At the smectic–nematic phase transition, intertwined disclination line pairs are observed with both helical and kinked lozenge-like contours, configurations that we promote through capillary cross-section geometry and stabilize using fluorescent amphiphilic molecules. The observed texture is similar to that found in “exotic” materials such as chromonics, but it is here observed in common thermotropic nematics upon heating from the smectic into the nematic phase. Numerical modeling further reveals that the disclinations may possess winding characters that are intermediate between wedge and twist, and that vary along the defect contours. In our experiments, we utilize a phase transition to generate otherwise elusive defect structures in common liquid crystal materials.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2021 Soft Matter Emerging Investigators