Ordered interfaces for dual easy axes in liquid crystals

Abstract : Using nCB films adsorbed on MoS 2 substrates studied by x-ray diffraction, optical microscopy and Scanning Tunneling Microscopy, we demonstrate that ordered interfaces with well-defined orientations of adsorbed dipoles induce planar anchoring locked along the adsorbed dipoles or the alkyl chains, which play the role of easy axes. For two alternating orientations of the adsorbed dipoles or dipoles and alkyl chains, bi-stability of anchoring can be obtained. The results are explained using the introduction of fourth order terms in the phenomenological anchoring potential, leading to the demonstration of first order anchoring transition in these systems. Using this phenomenological anchoring potential, we finally show how the nature of anchoring in presence of dual easy axes (inducing bi-stability or average orientation between the two easy axes) can be related to the microscopical nature of the interface. Introduction Understanding the interactions between liquid crystal (LC) and a solid substrate is of clear applied interest, the vast majority of LC displays relying on control of interfaces. However this concerns also fundamental problems like wetting phenomena and all phenomena of orientation of soft matter bulk induced by the presence of an interface. In LCs at interfaces, the so-called easy axes correspond to the favoured orientations of the LC director close to the interface. If one easy axis only is defined for one given interface, the bulk director orients along or close to this axis [1]. It is well known that, in anchoring phenomena, two major effects compete to impose the anchoring directions of a liquid crystal, first, the interactions between molecules and the interface, second, the substrate roughness whose role has been analyzed by Berreman [2]. The influence of adsorbed molecular functional groups at the interface is most often dominant with, for example in carbon substrates, a main influence of unsaturated carbon bonds orientation at the interface [3]. In common LC displays, there is one unique easy axis, but modifications of surfaces have allowed for the discovery of promising new anchoring-related properties. For instance, the first anchoring bi-stability has been established on rough surfaces, associated with electric ordo-polarization [4] and the competition between a stabilizing short-range term and a destabilizing long-range term induced by an external field, can induce a continuous variation of anchoring orientation [5]. More recently, surfaces with several easy axes have been studied extensively. It has been shown that control of a continuous variation of director pretilt, obtained in several systems [6, 7], is associated with the presence of two different easy axes, one perpendicular to the substrate (homeotropic) and one planar [7, 8]. Similar models can explain the continuous evolution of anchoring between two planar orientations observed on some crystalline substrates [9]. However, in the same time, two easy axes can also lead to anchoring bi-stability [10, 11] or discontinuous transitions of anchoring [9], which is not compatible with the model established to interpret observed control of pretilt. In order to be able to predict if bi-stability or continuous combination of the two easy axes occurs for one given system, it becomes necessary to understand the microscopic origin of the easy axes.
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Emmanuelle Lacaze, A Apicella, M de Santo, D Coursault, M Alba, et al.. Ordered interfaces for dual easy axes in liquid crystals. Soft Matter, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2011, ⟨10.1039/C0SM00727G⟩. ⟨hal-01222997⟩

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