Shape-Controlled Colloidal Interactions in Nematic Liquid Crystals

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Science  20 Nov 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5956, pp. 1083-1086
DOI: 10.1126/science.1176587

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Robust control over the positions, orientations, and assembly of nonspherical colloids may aid in the creation of new types of structured composite materials that are important from both technological and fundamental standpoints. With the use of lithographically fabricated equilateral polygonal platelets, we demonstrate that colloidal interactions and self-assembly in anisotropic nematic fluids can be effectively tailored via control over the particles’ shapes. The particles disturb the uniform alignment of the surrounding nematic host, resulting in both a distinct equilibrium alignment and highly directional pair interactions. Interparticle forces between polygonal platelets exhibit either dipolar or quadrupolar symmetries, depending on whether their number of sides is odd or even, and drive the assembly of a number of ensuing self-assembled colloidal structures.

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