Domains, Defects, and de Vries: Electrooptics of Smectic Liquid Crystals

Christopher D Jones, ,

University of Colorado at Boulder

Liquid crystal (LC) materials are easily manipulated with the introduction of fields. Surface alignment of LC materials is commonly achieved via a rubbed polymer. Electric fields are then applied across the LC in order to reorient the individual molecules. These two controlling fields are the fundamental basis for the entirety of the liquid crystal display (LCD) industry, which in the 1970s was limited to calculators and digital watches but now LCDs are present by the dozen in the average home! Because these manipulations are so simple, and because the applications are so obvious, it has been useful to use the display cell geometry for the study of LCs. Novel compounds are being synthesized by chemistry groups at a high rate, and characterization of new materials must keep up. Therefore a primary technique is to probe the electrooptics of a material in a display cell. However, this geometry has its own impact on the behavior of a material: orientation and pinning at the surfaces tend to dominate the rest of the cell volume. With this information in mind, three interesting results of the display cell geometry and the resultant electrooptic measurements will be shown. First, the nucleation of twisted domains in achiral materials, made possible by the high energies required to overcome the orientation of the surface layers as compared to the bulk will be discussed. Second, the foundations of a large scale texture, made possible by surface pinning, expressing the stress of a material that shows large layer expansion on cooling through the smectic A phase will be solved. Finally, a model for the frequency dependence of the unique electrooptical behavior of the de Vries-type of smectics will be provided.

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