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Nat Mater. 2010 Feb;9(2):139-45. doi: 10.1038/nmat2592. Epub 2009 Dec 6.

Three-dimensional structure and multistable optical switching of triple-twisted particle-like excitations in anisotropic fluids.

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Department of Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA.


Control of structures in soft materials with long-range order forms the basis for applications such as displays, liquid-crystal biosensors, tunable lenses, distributed feedback lasers, muscle-like actuators and beam-steering devices. Bistable, tristable and multistable switching of well-defined structures of molecular alignment is of special interest for all of these applications. Here we describe the facile optical creation and multistable switching of localized configurations in the molecular orientation field of a chiral nematic anisotropic fluid. These localized chiro-elastic particle-like excitations--dubbed 'triple-twist torons'--are generated by vortex laser beams and embed the localized three-dimensional (3D) twist into a uniform background. Confocal polarizing microscopy and computer simulations reveal their equilibrium internal structures, manifesting both skyrmion-like and Hopf fibration features. Robust generation of torons at predetermined locations combined with both optical and electrical reversible switching can lead to new ways of multistable structuring of complex photonic architectures in soft materials.

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