Alignment of Liquid Crystals with Patterned Isotropic Surfaces

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Science  30 Mar 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5513, pp. 2576-2580
DOI: 10.1126/science.291.5513.2576

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The molecules of a nematic liquid crystal exposed to an isotropic surface adopt a mean tilt relative to the normal but have no in-plane alignment—that is, they are free to have any azimuthal orientation in the surface plane. Pursuing the theoretical suggestion by Meyer that, in spite of this azimuthal degeneracy, spatially inhomogeneous isotropic surfaces combine with liquid crystal elastic anisotropy to produce alignment, we show that a boundary line between two isotropic regions that differ in mean tilt does indeed align the liquid crystal. The boundaries on a patterned surface of distinct isotropic regions thus act as a system of lines that the molecular orientation locally follows. This enables the development of liquid crystal alignment surfaces based on printing or lithographic patterning.

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