Guided assembly and ordering of functional nanoparticles in defect arrays of thin smectic liquid crystal films.

Zappone B., Lacaze E., Bartolino B.

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Combining self-assembling liquid crystals (LC) molecules and functional nanoparticles is a promising approach to produce stimuli-responsive materials with tailored optical and charge-transport properties. Large-area periodic arrays of linear defect domains spontaneously appear at the transition from the nematic to smectic-A phase in thin LC films subject to strong bend distortions (e.g. under applied electric fields or conflicting anchoring conditions). Anisotropic interactions between the LC defects and nanoparticles lead to self-assembly of plasmonic nanospheres and quantum dots into linear aggregates, and alignment of anisotropic fluorescent dyes and semiconductor nanorods parallel to the defect direction. Our observations show that the formation of linear arrays in smectic LCs is analogue to the formation of periodic frustrated phases (e.g. intermediate state) at the transition from the normal to the superconductor state of a metal, highlighting the interest of smectic LC arrays also from the fundamental point of view.

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