Endotoxin-Induced Structural Transformations in Liquid Crystalline Droplets

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Science  19 May 2011:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1195639


The ordering of liquid crystals (LCs) is known to be influenced by surfaces and contaminants. Here, we report that picogram-per-milliliter concentrations of endotoxin in water-trigger ordering transitions in micrometer-size LC droplets. The ordering transitions, which occur at surface concentrations of endotoxin that are less than 10–5 Langmuir, are not due to adsorbate-induced changes in the interfacial energy of the LC. The sensitivity of the LC to endotoxin was measured to change by six orders of magnitude with the geometry of the LC (droplet versus slab), supporting the hypothesis that interactions of endotoxin with topological defects in the LC mediate the response of the droplets. The LC ordering transitions depend strongly on glycophospholipid structure and provide new designs for responsive soft matter.