Glassiness of thermotropic liquid crystals across the isotropic-nematic transition

Chakrabarti, Dwaipayan ; Bagchi, Biman (2007) Glassiness of thermotropic liquid crystals across the isotropic-nematic transition Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 111 (40). pp. 11646-11657. ISSN 1089-5647

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The orientational dynamics of thermotropic liquid crystals across the isotropic-nematic phase transition have traditionally been investigated at long times or low frequencies using frequency domain measurements. The situation has now changed significantly with the recent report of a series of interesting transient optical Kerr effect (OKE) experiments that probed orientational relaxation of a number of calamitic liquid crystals (which consist of rod-like molecules) directly in the time domain, over a wide time window ranging from subpicoseconds to tens of microseconds. The most intriguing revelation is that the decay of the OKE signal at short to intermediate times (from a few tens of picoseconds to several hundred nanoseconds) follows multiple temporal power laws. Another remarkable feature that has emerged from these OKE measurements is the similarity in the orientational relaxation behavior between the isotropic phase of calamitic liquid crystals near the isotropic-nematic transition and supercooled molecular liquids, notwithstanding their largely different macroscopic states. In this article, we present an overview of the understanding that has emerged from recent computational and theoretical studies of calamitic liquid crystals across the isotropic-nematic transition. Topics discussed include (a) single-particle as well as collective orientational dynamics at a short-to-intermediate time window, (b) heterogeneous dynamics in orientational degrees of freedom diagnosed by a non-Gaussian parameter, (c) fragility, and (d) temperature-dependent exploration of underlying energy landscapes as calamitic liquid crystals settle into increasingly ordered mesophases upon cooling from the high-temperature isotropic phase. A comparison of our results with those of supercooled molecular liquids reveals an array of analogous features in these two important classes of soft matter systems. We further find that the onset of growth of the orientational order in the parent nematic phase induces translational order, resulting in smectic-like layers in the potential energy minima of calamitic systems if the parent nematic phase is sandwiched between the high-temperature isotropic phase and the low-temperature smectic phase. We discuss implications of this startling observation. We also discuss recent results on the orientational dynamics of discotic liquid crystals that are found to be rather similar to those of calamitic liquid crystals.

Item Type:Article
Source:Copyright of this article belongs to American Chemical Society.
ID Code:3995
Deposited On:13 Oct 2010 07:05
Last Modified:07 Jan 2011 09:28

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