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Unmasking the structure of a chiral cubic thermotropic liquid crystal phase by a combination of soft and tender resonant X-ray scattering
Timon Grabovac, Ewa Górecka, Chenhui Zhu, Damian Pociecha, Nataša Vaupotič, 2022, original scientific article

Abstract: A resonant X-ray scattering response for two structural models of a chiral cubic phase with a giant unit cell, one composed of a continuous grid and micelles and the other with three continuous grids, is studied theoretically and compared to experimental measurements. For both structural models resonant enhancement of all the symmetry-allowed diffraction peaks is predicted, as well as the existance of several symmetry forbidden peaks (pure resonant peaks). Experimental measurements were performed at the carbon and sulphur absorption edge. Only one pure resonant peak was observed, which is predicted by both models. Two low-angle symmetry allowed peaks, not observed in non-resonant scattering, were resonantly enhanced and their intensity angular dependence can distinguish between the two structural models.
Keywords: resonant X-ray scattering, chiral cubic thermotropic liquid crystal phase, structural models, carbon absorption edge, sulphur absorption edge
Published in DKUM: 13.06.2024; Views: 48; Downloads: 0
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Reconfiguration of nematic disclinations in plane-parallel confinements
Saša Harkai, Charles Rosenblatt, Samo Kralj, 2023, original scientific article

Abstract: We study numerically the reconfiguration process of colliding |m|=1/2 strength disclinations in an achiral nematic liquid crystal (NLC). A Landau–de Gennes approach in terms of tensor nematic-order parameters is used. Initially, different pairs {m1,m2} of parallel wedge disclination lines connecting opposite substrates confining the NLC in a plane-parallel cell of a thickness h are imposed: {1/2,1/2}, {−1/2,−1/2} and {−1/2,1/2}. The collisions are imposed by the relative rotation of the azimuthal angle θ of the substrates that strongly pin the defect end points. Pairs {1/2,1/2} and {−1/2,−1/2} “rewire” at the critical angle θ(1)c=3π/4 in all cases studied. On the other hand, two qualitatively different scenarios are observed for {−1/2,1/2}. In the thinner film regime ℎ<ℎc, the disclinations rewire at θ(2)c=5π/4. The rewiring process is mediated by an additional chargeless loop nucleated in the middle of the cell. In the regime ℎ>ℎc, the colliding disclinations at θ(2)c reconfigure into boojum-like twist disclinations.
Keywords: liquid crystals, topological defects, disclinations, reconfiguration
Published in DKUM: 28.03.2024; Views: 127; Downloads: 7
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Caloric effects in liquid crystal-based soft materials
Dejvid Črešnar, Nikita Derets, Maja Trček, Gregor Skačej, Andraž Rešetič, Marta Lavrič, Valentina Domenici, Boštjan Zalar, Samo Kralj, Zdravko Kutnjak, Brigita Rožič, 2023, original scientific article

Abstract: With the increased environmental awareness, the search for environmentally friendlier heat-management techniques has been the topic of many scientific studies. The caloric materials with large caloric effects, such as the electrocaloric (EC) and elastocaloric (eC) effects, have increased interest due to their potential to realize new solid-state refrigeration devices. Recently, caloric properties of soft materials, such as liquid crystals (LCs) and LC elastomers (LCEs), are getting more in the focus of caloric materials investigations, stimulated by large caloric effects observed in these materials. Here, an overview of recent direct measurements of large caloric effects in smectic LC 14CB and main-chain LCEs is given. Specifically, high-resolution thermometric measurements revealed a large EC response in 14CB LC exceeding 8 K. Such a large effect was obtained at a relatively moderate electric field of 30 kV cm−1 compared to solid EC materials. We demonstrate that such a small field can induce the isotropic to smectic A phase transition in 14CB, releasing or absorbing relatively large latent heat that enhances the EC response. Furthermore, it is demonstrated that in main-chain LCEs, the character of the nematic to isotropic transition can be tuned from the supercritical towards the first-order regime by decreasing the crosslinkers' density. Such tuning results in a sharper phase transition and latent heat that enhance the eC response, exceeding 2 K and with the eC responsivity of 24 K MPa−1, about three orders of magnitude larger than the average eC responsivity found in the best shape memory alloys. Significant caloric effects in soft LC-based materials, observed at much smaller fields than in solid caloric materials, demonstrate their ability to play an important role as new cooling elements, thermal diodes, and caloric-active regeneration material in new heat-management devices.
Keywords: liquid crystal, lyquid crystal elastomers, electrocaloric, elastocaloric
Published in DKUM: 21.03.2024; Views: 153; Downloads: 13
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Stable assemblies of topological defects in nematic orientational order
Arbresha Hölbl, Luka Mesarec, Juš Polanšek, Aleš Iglič, Samo Kralj, 2023, original scientific article

Abstract: We considered general mechanisms enabling the stabilization of localized assemblies of topological defects (TDs). There is growing evidence that physical fields represent fundamental natural entities, and therefore these features are of interest to all branches of physics. In general, cores of TDs are energetically costly, and consequently, assemblies of TDs are unfavorable. Owing to the richness of universalities in the physics of TDs, it is of interest to identify systems where they are easily experimentally accessible, enabling detailed and well-controlled analysis of their universal behavior, and cross-fertilizing knowledge in different areas of physics. In this respect, thermotropic nematic liquid crystals (NLCs) represent an ideal experiment testbed for such studies. In addition, TDs in NLCs could be exploited in several applications. We present examples that emphasize the importance of curvature imposed on the phase component of the relevant order parameter field. In NLCs, it is represented by the nematic tensor order parameter. Using a simple Landau-type approach, we show how the coupling between chirality and saddle splay elasticity, which can be expressed as a Gaussian curvature contribution, can stabilize Meron TDs. The latter have numerous analogs in other branches of physics. TDs in 2D curved manifolds reveal that the Gaussian curvature dominantly impacts the assembling and stabilization of TDs. Furthermore, a strong enough curvature that serves as an attractor for TDs is a respective field that could be imposed in a fast enough phase transition. Assemblies of created TDs created in such a disordered environment could be stabilized by appropriate impurities.
Keywords: topological defects, nematic liquid crystals, Gaussian curvature, topological charge
Published in DKUM: 17.07.2023; Views: 333; Downloads: 17
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Muhammad Ali, 2021, doctoral dissertation

Abstract: In this thesis, we study the structure and optical transmission properties of the twist-bend nematic liquid crystalline phase, made of bent dimers, confined in thin planar cells. Confinement leads to the formation of a periodic modulated structure, the formation of which is explained as follows. The twist-bend nematic phase is characterized by a heliconical modulation of the molecular long axes. Due to a short pitch of modulation (approximately 10 nm), the twist-bend nematic phase behaves as a pseudo-layered medium. At temperatures below the nematic – twist-bend nematic phase transition, the heliconical pitch and thus the thickness of the pseudo-layers reduces, which leads to a two-dimensional undulation of pseudo-layers in the direction perpendicular to the cell surfaces and along the surfaces. The undulated structure is responsible for a stripe texture observed under a polarizing microscope and acts as a diffraction grating. We constructed theoretical models to predict the pseudo-layer structure of a confined twist-bend nematic phase and to describe the properties of light diffracted on such cells. The free energy of the two-dimensional pseudo-layer structure of the twist-bend nematic phase is expressed in terms of the nematic director field, by which we describe the direction of the heliconical axis, and a complex smectic order parameter, the gradient of which gives the direction of the layer normal. At first, we assume that pseudo-layers are perpendicular to the surfaces (bookshelf geometry) and find a stable structure by assuming an ansatz for the pseudo-layer displacement from the bookshelf geometry and then minimizing the free energy at a very strong and very weak surface anchoring. In this way a threshold condition for the onset of the modulated structure is obtained, as well as the amplitude and period of modulation. Next, we assume that, at the onset of the twist-bend nematic phase, pseudo-layers are formed at some angle (pre-tilt) with respect to the surface. We find that in both cases, the bookshelf and pre-tilted one, the calculated period of modulation far from the phase transition is always approximately twice the cell thickness, which agrees with experimental observations. The properties of light diffracted by the spontaneously formed grating were studied both experimentally and theoretically. We measured the intensity and polarization properties of the first two orders of the diffracted light and the temperature dependence of the polarization of the second order diffraction peaks. To predict the observed properties of the diffracted light and to simplify the description of such gratings, we consider different preliminary models of a one-dimensional spatial variation of the optic axis, the direction of which is given by two angles. A transfer matrix method is used and a good agreement between the experimental and theoretical results is obtained. In a more comprehensive approach, we determine the spatial variation of the optic axis direction from the modeled structure. The electric field in the diffracted light is obtained by using the transfer matrix method and beam propagation method. In the case of a pre-tilt of the pseudo-layers and very strong surface anchoring both methods give good qualitative agreement with experimental results, only in the case of the temperature dependence of the second order diffraction peaks, a more complex beam propagation method is superior to the transfer matrix method. The thesis is divided into three parts. In the first part, we focus on the physical properties of the twist-bend nematic phase and its structure in thin planar cells. In the second part, a continuum model is proposed and finally, the properties of diffracted light are discussed and theoretically predicted by using the beam propagation method and transfer matrix method.
Keywords: Bent-dimer liquid crystals, twist-bend nematic phase, undulation of pseudo-layers, polarization, diffraction grating, beam propagation method, transfer matrix method.
Published in DKUM: 21.10.2021; Views: 1259; Downloads: 85
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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: 2284; Downloads: 237
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Teaching complex fields of soft matter, proposal of a new liquid crystal analogy
Uroš Jagodič, Jacob Staines, Samo Kralj, Robert Repnik, 2014, original scientific article

Abstract: The key reason behind the richness of different structures and patterns displayed in nature is the universal mechanism of symmetry breaking. It shapes configurations at all length scales encountered in universe. Structures reached via symmetry breaking transitions are commonly described in terms of order parameter fields. One of the simplest systems where symmetry breaking concepts have already been explored in detail, are various liquid crystal (LC) phases. The reason behind this is rich variety of structures exhibited by LCs and their convenient experimental accessibility. Consequently, a wide spectrum of different theoretical tools have been developed in LCs. In this contribution the orientational ordering of housing block in San Francisco, which we choose as a typical large-city representative, was studied. Following nematic LC analogy we determine the local degree of ordering. The structural pattern of the city displays a domain-type pattern. The average degree of ordering within a domain strongly correlates with crime rate within it. Therefore, the results confirm an intuitive expectation that structures define properties. This model can be used as a helpful tool in education as it provides a way of understanding complex topics with the help of well-known every day phenomena.
Keywords: education, liquid crystals, modelling, order parameter
Published in DKUM: 19.12.2017; Views: 1502; Downloads: 84
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Patterns in symmetry breaking transitions
Samo Kralj, Robert Repnik, 2012, original scientific article

Abstract: It is now well accepted that we all have amazing capabilities in recognizing faces in a fraction of a second. This specific pattern recognition ability could be by appropriate training transferred to some other field of expertise. At the same time pattern recognition skills are becoming increasingly important survival strategy in the modern competitive world which faces information overload. In the paper we demonstrate an example of pattern-recognition type of lecturing modern physics. By using already absorbed knowledge and analogies we exploit our innate pattern recognition brain capabilities for more effective learning of new concepts in physics.
Keywords: pattern recognition, universalities, liquid crystals, cosmology
Published in DKUM: 15.12.2017; Views: 1906; Downloads: 141
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