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Simultaneous Measurements of Molecular Forces and Electro-Optical Properties of a Confined 5CB Liquid Crystal Film Using a Surface Forces Apparatus

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journal contribution
posted on 07.04.2015, 00:00 by Kai Kristiansen, Hongbo Zeng, Bruno Zappone, Jacob N. Israelachvili
Using a surface forces apparatus (SFA), we studied the forces associated with the reorientation of molecules of a common nematic thermotropic liquid crystal, 4′-n-pentyl-4-cyanobiphenyl (5CB), confined between two conducting (silver) surfaces and its optical behavior under the influence of electric fields with varying magnitudes and field directions. A transient attractive force was observed due to partial reorientations of the liquid crystal molecules and the flow of free ions, in addition to a stronger constant capacitance attraction between the silver surfaces. At the same time, the optical properties of the liquid crystals were observed perpendicular to the silver surfaces. Observations of shifts and fluctuations of the extraordinary wave of the (multiple beam) interference fringes measure the refractive index of the director component parallel to the surface, which is sensitive to tilt motion (or reorientation) of the liquid crystal molecules that provided details of the anisotropic orientations of the molecules and domains. Any lateral differential refractive index change is easily observed by optical microscopy. The optical microscope imaging showed that the changes in the optical properties are due to convective flow at domain boundaries of the liquid crystal molecules (and possible free ions) between the two charged surfaces. At low electric fields, propagation of domain boundaries was observed, while at higher electric fields, hexagonal patterns of flowing molecules were observed. The interplay of the force measurements and optical observations reveal a complex dynamic behavior of liquid crystals subjected to varying electric fields in confined spaces.

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