Spontaneous mirror symmetry breaking and chiral segregation in the achiral ferronematic compound DIO†
An achiral compound, DIO, known to exhibit three nematic phases namely N, NX and NF, is studied by polarizing microscopy and electro-optics for different surface conditions in confinement. The high temperature N phase assigned initially as a conventional nematic phase, shows two additional unusual features: the optical activity and the linear electro-optic response related to the polar nature of this phase. An appearance of chiral domains is explained by the spontaneous symmetry breaking arising from the saddle-splay elasticity and followed by the formation of helical domains of the opposite chirality. This is the first example of helical segregation observed in calamitic non-chiral molecules in the nematic phase. As reported previously, the ferronematic NF shows strong polar azimuthal surface interaction energy which stabilizes a homogeneous structure in planar aligned LC cells rubbed parallel and exhibits a twisted structure in cells with antiparallel buffing. The transmission spectra are simulated using Berreman's 4 × 4 matrix method. The observed agreement between the experimental and the simulated spectra quantitatively confirms the presence of twisted structures in antiparallel rubbed cells.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2023 PCCP HOT Articles