Research Article

Polarization-Modulated Smectic Liquid Crystal Phases

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Science  29 Aug 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5637, pp. 1204-1211
DOI: 10.1126/science.1084956

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Abstract

Any polar-ordered material with a spatially uniform polarization field is internally frustrated: The symmetry-required local preference for polarization is to be nonuniform, i.e., to be locally bouquet-like or “splayed.” However, it is impossible to achieve splay of a preferred sign everywhere in space unless appropriate defects are introduced into the field. Typically, in materials like ferroelectric crystals or liquid crystals, such defects are not thermally stable, so that the local preference is globally frustrated and the polarization field remains uniform. Here, we report a class of fluid polar smectic liquid crystals in which local splay prevails in the form of periodic supermolecular-scale polarization modulation stripes coupled to layer undulation waves. The polar domains are locally chiral, and organized into patterns of alternating handedness and polarity. The fluid-layer undulations enable an extraordinary menagerie of filament and planar structures that identify such phases.

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