University of Oxford
Shaping colloidal bananas to reveal biaxial, splay-bend nematic, and smectic phases
Colloidal dispersions of rod-like particles are widely accepted as convenient model systems to study the phase behavior of liquid-crystal forming systems, commonly found in LCDs. This is due to the fact that colloidal rods exhibit analogous phase behavior to that of elongated molecules, while they can be directly observed by optical microscopy. Recently, there has been a surge of interest in the liquid crystalline behaviour of so-called bent-core, or banana-shaped, molecules. This is due to their ability to form exotic biaxial nematic phases such as the twist-bend and splay-bend nematic phase, which may be of particular interest inherent to their fast switching response in LCDs.
Here, we develop model “banana-shaped” colloidal particles with tunable dimensions and curvature, whose structure and dynamics are accessible at the particle level.
By heating initially straight rods made of SU-8 photoresist, we induce a controllable shape deformation that causes the rods to buckle into banana-shaped particles. We elucidate the phase behavior of differently curved colloidal bananas using confocal microscopy. Although highly curved bananas only form isotropic phases, less curved bananas exhibit very rich phase behavior, including biaxial nematic phases, polar and antipolar smectic-like phases, and even the long-predicted, elusive splay-bend nematic phase.