Topological defects in liquid crystals as templates for molecular self-assembly.

Nicholas Abbott
University of Wisconsin @ Madison
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
NCSU Golden Leaf BTEC Room 135 | 4:30pm

Topological defects in liquid crystals (LCs) have been widely used to organize colloidal dispersions and template polymerizations, leading to a range of elastomers and gels with complex mechanical and optical properties. However, little is understood about molecular-level assembly processes within defects. This presentation will describe an experimental study that reveals that nanoscopic environments defined by LC topological defects can selectively trigger processes of molecular self-assembly. By using fluorescence microscopy, cryogenic transmission electron microscopy and super-resolution optical microscopy, key signatures of molecular self-assembly of amphiphilic molecules in topological defects are observed - including cooperativity, reversibility, and controlled growth of the molecular assemblies. By using polymerizable amphiphiles, we also demonstrate preservation of molecular assemblies templated by defects, including nanoscopic “o-rings” synthesized from “Saturn-ring” disclinations. Our results reveal that topological defects in LCs are a versatile class of three-dimensional, dynamic and reconfigurable templates that can direct processes of molecular self-assembly in a manner that is strongly analogous to other classes of macromolecular templates (e.g., polymer—surfactant complexes). Opportunities for the design of exquisitely responsive soft materials will be discussed using bacterial endotoxin as an example.

Nicholas Abbott