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Impact of curvature on nematic topological defects
Luka Mesarec, 2018, doctoral dissertation

Abstract: Topological defects (TDs) appear almost unavoidably in continuous symmetry breaking phase transitions. The topological origin makes their key features independent of systems' microscopic details; therefore TDs display many universalities. Because of their strong impact on numerous material properties and their significant role in several technological applications it is of strong interest to find simple and robust mechanisms controlling the positioning and local number of TDs. There are strong evidences that in physics the fields are fundamental entities of nature and not particles. If this is the case then topological defects (TDs) might play the role of fundamental particles. An adequate testing ground to study and gain fundamental understanding of TDs are nematic liquid crystals. We present a numerical study of TDs within effectively two dimensional closed soft films exhibiting in-plane orientational ordering. Popular examples of such class of systems are liquid crystalline shells and various biological membranes. We analyze the impact of extrinsic and intrinsic curvature on positions of topological defects (TDs) in two-dimensional (2D) nematic films. We demonstrate that both these curvature contributions are commonly present and are expected to be weighted by comparable elastic constants. A simple Landau-de Gennes approach in terms of tensor nematic order parameter is used to numerically demonstrate impact of the curvatures on position of TDs on 2D ellipsoidal nematic shells. We introduce the Effective Topological Charge Cancellation mechanism controlling localised positional assembling tendency of TDs and the formation of pairs (defect,antidefect) on curved surfaces. Furthermore, we estimate a critical depinning threshold to form pairs (defect,antidefect) using the electrostatic analogy. Finally, we show how one could efficiently switch among qualitatively different structures by using a relative volume of ordered shells, which represents a relatively simple naturally accessible control parameter. In doctoral thesis, we developed theoretical model of erythrocyte membrane by using a hybrid Helfrich-Landau type mesoscopic approach, taking into account in-plane membrane ordering. We demonstrate that the derived extrinsic membrane energy term, which strongly depends on the local orientations of the molecules, is essential for the predicted broadening of the range of the relative volumes corresponding to the stable discocyte shapes, which is otherwise very narrow if only intrinsic curvature energy term dominates.
Keywords: Topological defects, Continuum fields, Nematic liquid crystals, Biological membranes, Nematic shells, Landau-de Gennes formalism, Topological charge, Nanoparticles, Gaussian curvature, Electrostatic analogy, Intrinsic curvature, Extrinsic curvature, Crystal growth nucleation, Relative volume
Published in DKUM: 09.03.2018; Views: 1420; Downloads: 116
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