Engineered liquid crystal nano droplets: insights from multi-scale simulations

Z Sumer and FA Fernandez and A Striolo, NANOSCALE, 12, 20211-20219 (2020).

DOI: 10.1039/d0nr04989a

Liquid crystal (LC) droplets have been investigated for a wide range of applications, from displays to sensors. Over the years, a need has arisen for complete understanding of the behaviour of LCs in droplets under different conditions for the development of advanced devices, for which accurate modelling is necessary. We show here, for the first time, both qualitative and quantitative agreement between coarse-grained molecular models and Q-tensor theory calculations for liquid crystal (LC) droplets. The approach is demonstrated for two types of droplet surfaces, which possess strong planar degenerate and strong homeotropic anchoring, respectively. Once its reliability has been proven, our approach was used to identify defects due to changes in anchoring in a small region on the LC droplet surface, which could be triggered, for example, by the adsorption of a nano-particle or a protein. Both coarse- grained simulations and Q-tensor analysis show the appearance of defects in well-determined locations within the LC droplet, albeit sometimes affected by degeneracy due to the symmetry of the systems being investigated. These results suggest the possibility of using LC droplets, in the future, as platforms for advanced sensing as well as for signal intensification.

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