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Spontaneous Formation of Macroscopic Chiral Domains in a Fluid Smectic Phase of Achiral Molecules

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Science  12 Dec 1997:
Vol. 278, Issue 5345, pp. 1924-1927
DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5345.1924

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Abstract

A smectic liquid-crystal phase made from achiral molecules with bent cores was found to have fluid layers that exhibit two spontaneous symmetry-breaking instabilities: polar molecular orientational ordering about the layer normal and molecular tilt. These instabilities combine to form a chiral layer structure with a handedness that depends on the sign of the tilt. The bulk states are either antiferroelectric-racemic, with the layer polar direction and handedness alternating in sign from layer to layer, or antiferroelectric-chiral, which is of uniform layer handedness. Both states exhibit an electric field–induced transition from antiferroelectric to ferroelectric.

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