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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. hough@colorado.edu

Abstract

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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