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Science. 2009 Jul 24;325(5939):456-60. doi: 10.1126/science.1170027.

Helical nanofilament phases.

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  • 1Department of Physics and Liquid Crystal Materials Research Center, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA.


In the formation of chiral crystals, the tendency for twist in the orientation of neighboring molecules is incompatible with ordering into a lattice: Twist is expelled from planar layers at the expense of local strain. We report the ordered state of a neat material in which a local chiral structure is expressed as twisted layers, a state made possible by spatial limitation of layering to a periodic array of nanoscale filaments. Although made of achiral molecules, the layers in these filaments are twisted and rigorously homochiral--a broken symmetry. The precise structural definition achieved in filament self-assembly enables collective organization into arrays in which an additional broken symmetry--the appearance of macroscopic coherence of the filament twist--produces a liquid crystal phase of helically precessing layers.

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