Elastic Instability of Cubic Blue Phase Nano Crystals in Curved Shells

Many crystallization processes, including biomineralization and ice-freezing, occur in small and curved volumes, where surface curvature can strain the crystal, leading to unusual configurations and defect formation. The role of curvature on crystallization, however, remains poorly understood. Here, we study the crystallization of blue phase (BP) liquid crystals under curved confinement, which provides insights into the mechanism by which BPs reconfigure their three-dimensional lattice structure to adapt to curvature. BPs are a three-dimensional assembly of high-chirality liquid crystal molecules arranged into body-centered (BPI) or simple cubic (BPII) symmetries. BPs with submicrometer cubic-crystalline lattices exhibit tunable Bragg reflection and submillisecond response time to external stimuli such as an electric field, making them attractive for advanced photonic materials. In this work, we have systematically studied BPs confined in spherical shells with well-defined curvature and boundary conditions. The optical behavior of shells has also been examined at room temperature, where the cholesteric structure forms. In the cholesteric phase, perpendicular anchoring generates focal conic domains on the shell’s surface, which transition into stripe patterns as the degree of curvature increases. Our results demonstrate that both higher degrees of curvature and strong spatial confinement destabilize BPI and reconfigure that phase to adopt the structure and optical features of BPII. We also show that the coupling of curvature and confinement nucleates skyrmions at greater thicknesses than those observed for a flat geometry. These findings are particularly important for integrating BPs into miniaturized and curved/flexible devices, including flexible displays, wearable sensors, and smart fabrics.


Early Access: SEP 2022


By: Norouzi, Sepideh / Tavera-Vazquez, Antonio / Ramirez-de Arellano, Johanan / Kim, Dae Seok / Lopez-Leon, Teresa / Pablo, Juan J. de / Martinez-Gonzalez, Jose A. / Sadati, Monirosadat


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