Electrically induced structure transition in nematic liquid crystal droplets with conical boundary conditions

Rudyak, VY; Krakhalev, MN; Sutormin, VS; Prishchepa, OO; Zyryanov, VY; Liu, JH; Emelyanenko, AV; Khokhlov, AR PHYSICAL REVIEW E, 96 (5):10.1103/PhysRevE.96.052701 NOV 6 2017

Polymer-dispersed liquid crystal composites have been a focus of study for a long time for their unique electro-optical properties and manufacturing by “bottom-up” techniques at large scales. In this paper, nematic liquid crystal oblate droplets with conical boundary conditions (CBCs) under the action of electric field were studied by computer simulations and polarized optical microscopy. Droplets with CBCs were shown to prefer an axial-bipolar structure, which combines a pair of boojums and circular disclinations on a surface. In contrast to droplets with degenerate planar boundary conditions (PBCs), hybridization of the two structure types in droplets with CBCs leads to a two-minima energy profile, resulting in an abrupt structure transition and bistable behavior of the system. The nature of the low-energy barrier in droplets with CBCs makes it highly sensitive to external stimuli, such as electric or magnetic fields, temperature, and light. In particular, the value of the electric field of the structure reorientation in droplets with CBCs was found to be a few times smaller than the one for droplets with PBCs, and the droplet state remained stable after switching off the voltage.