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Phys Rev Lett. 2011 Jun 17;106(24):247801. Epub 2011 Jun 15.

Nematic-smectic transition under confinement in liquid crystalline colloidal shells.

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Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Institute of Chemistry-Physical Chemistry, Halle, Germany.


We carry out the first study of smectic liquid crystalline colloidal shells and investigate how their complex internal structure depends on the director configuration in the nematic phase, preceding the smectic phase on cooling. Differences in the free energy cost of director bend and splay give an initial skewed distribution of topological defects in the nematic phase. In the smectic phase, the topological and geometrical constraints of the spherical shell imposed on the developing 1D quasi-long-range order create a conflict that triggers a series of buckling instabilities. Two different characteristic defect patterns arise, one driven by the curvature of the shell, the other by the strong nonuniformities in the director field in the vicinity of the topological defects.

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