Spontaneous Ferroelectric Order in a Bent-Core Smectic Liquid Crystal of Fluid Orthorhombic Layers

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Science  01 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6025, pp. 72-77
DOI: 10.1126/science.1197248

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Macroscopic polarization density, characteristic of ferroelectric phases, is stabilized by dipolar intermolecular interactions. These are weakened as materials become more fluid and of higher symmetry, limiting ferroelectricity to crystals and to smectic liquid crystal stackings of fluid layers. We report the SmAPF, the smectic of fluid polar orthorhombic layers that order into a three-dimensional ferroelectric state, the highest-symmetry layered ferroelectric possible and the highest-symmetry ferroelectric material found to date. Its bent-core molecular design employs a single flexible tail that stabilizes layers with untilted molecules and in-plane polar ordering, evident in monolayer-thick freely suspended films. Electro-optic response reveals the three-dimensional orthorhombic ferroelectric structure, stabilized by silane molecular terminations that promote parallel alignment of the molecular dipoles in adjacent layers.

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