Structure and Dynamics of Freely Suspended Liquid Crystals
- Clark, Noel A.
- April 12, 2004.
- Physical Description:
- 1 electronic document
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- Smectic liquid crystals are phases of rod shaped molecules organized into one dimensionally (1 D) periodic arrays of layers, each layer being between one and two molecular lengths thick. In the least ordered smectic phases, the smectics A and C, each layer is a two dimensional (2D) liquid. Additionally there are a variety of more ordered smectic phases having hexatic short range translational order or 2D crystalline or quasi long range translational order within the layers. The inherent fluid-layer structure and low vapor pressure of smectic liquid crystals enables the long term stabilization of freely suspended, single component, layered fluid films as thin as 30A, a single molecular layer. The layering forces the films to be an integral number of smectic layers thick, quantizing their thickness in layer units and forcing a film of a particular number of layers to be physically homogeneous with respect to its layer structure over its entire area. Optical reflectivity enables the precise determination of the number of layers. These ultrathin freely suspended liquid crystal films are structures of fundamental interest in condensed matter and fluid physics. They are the thinnest known stable fluid structures and have the largest surface-to-volume ratio of any stable fluid preparation, making them ideal for the study of the effects of reduced dimensionality on phase behavior and on fluctuation and interface phenomena. Their low vapor pressure and quantized thickness enable the effective use of microgravity to extend the study of basic capillary phenomena to ultrathin fluid films. Freely suspended films have been a wellspring of new LC physics. They have been used to provide unique experimental conditions for the study of condensed phase transitions in two dimensions. They are the only system in which the hexatic has been unambiguously identified as a phase of matter, and the only physical system in which fluctuations of a 2D XY system and Kosterlitz Thouless phase transition has been observed and 2D XY quasi long range order verified. Smectic films have enabled the precise determination of smectic layer electron density and positional fluctuation profiles and have been used to show that the interlayer interactions in antiferroelectric tilted smectics do not extend significantly beyond nearest neighbors. Freely suspended films played a pivotal role in the recent discovery of macroscopic chiral-polar ordering in fluids of achiral molecules. The interactions which are operative in liquid crystals are generally weak in comparison to those in crystalline phases, leading to the facile manipulation of the order in liquid crystals by external agents such as applied fields and surfaces. Effects arising from weak ordering are significantly enhanced in ultrathin free films and filaments, in which the intermolecular coupling is effectively further reduced by loss of neighbors. Over the past four years this research, which we now detail, has produced a host of exciting new discoveries and unexpected results, maintaining the study of freely suspended liquid crystal structures as one of most exciting and fruitful areas of complex fluid physics. In addition, a class of experiments on the behavior of 1D interfaces in 2D films have been pursued with results that point to potentially quite interesting effects in microgravity.
- Other Subject(s):
- NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) Collection.
- Document ID: 20040055394.
- No Copyright.
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