Rafael S. Zola, Luiz R. Evangelista, Y.-C Yang e D.-K. Yang

Physical Review Letters – Volume: 110; Issue: 5; Article Number: 057801; DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.110.057801; 2013

We study the pattern formation of a chiral nematic liquid crystal under a wetting transition. In the isotropic-liquid crystal transition, a surface-enhanced effect happens and a thin liquid crystal layer forms at the substrates of the cell. In this confined system, chirality, elastic anisotropy, surface anchoring, and wetting strength interplay. A striped pattern is formed due to the chiral nature of the material and the tilted anchoring at the isotropic boundary. As the wetting layer grows from cooling the sample, first the stripes rotate through a process where dislocation defects are formed. As the wetting layer grows further, the periodicity of the stripe structure changes, and finally a splitting of the stripes occurs. Because of the unique properties of this system, new insights about pitch-thickness ratio, interface anchoring, and elastic anisotropy effect are found. Since the anchoring at the isotropic boundary is weak, the critical ratio between the thickness of the wetting layer and the helical pitch is different from that reported in the literature. We also discover that the elastic anisotropy and elastic constant ratios play a critical role in stripe formation. Because of the similarity with biological fibrous composites (twisted plywood), our system may be used as a synthetic version to mimic the naturally occurring one. We carry out a simulation study to explain the experimental results.