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Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys. 2002 Feb;65(2 Pt 1):021709. Epub 2002 Jan 25.

Symmetry breaking and interaction of colloidal particles in nematic liquid crystals.

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Yokoyama Nano-structured Liquid Crystal Project, Japan Science and Technology Corporation, Tsukuba Reserch Consortium, 5-9-9 Tokodai, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 300-2635, Japan.


We propose a general approach to the description of the long-ranged elastic interaction in the nematic colloids, based on the symmetry breaking of the director field. The type of the far-field interaction between particles immersed in a nematic host is determined by the way the symmetry is broken in the near-field region around the colloidal particle. This is caused both by the particle's shape and the anchoring at the surface. If the director field near the particle has a set of three symmetry planes, the far-field interaction falls off as d(-5) with d being the distance between particles. If one symmetry plane is absent, a dipolar moment perpendicular to it is allowed and yields dipole-dipole interactions, which decays as d(-3). If both the horizontal and vertical mirror symmetries are broken (it is equivalent to the case when the nonzero torque moment is applied to the particle by the nematic liquid crystal), the particles are shown to attract each other following the Coulomb law. We propose a simple method for the experimental observation of this Coulomb attraction. The behavior of colloid particles in curved director fields is analyzed. Quadrupolar particles with planar anchoring are shown to be attracted toward the regions with high splay deformations, while quadrupoles with homeotropic anchoring are depleted from such regions. When there are many colloidal particles in the nematic solvent, the distortions of the director from all of them are overlapped and lead to the exponential screening in the elastic pair interaction potential. This is a many-body interaction effect. This screening is essential in the real dense colloid systems, such as ferronematics--suspensions of magnetic cylindrical grains in the nematic liquid crystal. External magnetic field induces an elastic Yukawa attraction between them. We apply this attraction to the explanation of the cellular texture in magnetically doped liquid crystals.


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