Ferroelectric Columnar Liquid Crystal Featuring Confined Polar Groups Within Core–Shell Architecture

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Science  13 Apr 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6078, pp. 209-213
DOI: 10.1126/science.1217954

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Finessing Ferroelectric Liquid Crystals

For a material to show a ferroelectric response, it needs to have segments that can be polarized, with a net polarization that remains when the applied field is removed. However, the fluidity that allows liquid crystal molecules to easily move under an applied force also makes it hard to create a ferroelectric response. Miyajima et al. (p. 209) show that a set of columnar liquid crystal molecules, with polar cyano groups tethered to amide-capped nonpolar chains, can assemble into an umbrella-shaped core–shell architecture, in which hydrogen bonding among the amides keeps the cyano groups confined. With only subtle variations in the tether chemistry, the assemblies can be tuned from having a para-electric to a ferroelectric response, which requires only a small coercive field.


Ferroelectric liquid crystals are materials that have a remnant and electrically invertible polar order. Columnar liquid crystals with a ferroelectric nature have potential use in ultrahigh-density memory devices, if electrical polarization occurs along the columnar axis. However, columnar liquid crystals having an axial nonzero polarization at zero electric field and its electrical invertibility have not been demonstrated. Here, we report a ferroelectric response for a columnar liquid crystal adopting a core–shell architecture that accommodates an array of polar cyano groups confined by a hydrogen-bonded amide network with an optimal strength. Under an applied electric field, both columns and core cyano groups align unidirectionally, thereby developing an extremely large macroscopic remnant polarization.

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