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Physical Review E


Chromonic liquid crystals are formed by molecules that spontaneously assemble into anisotropic structures in water. The ordering unit is therefore a molecular assembly instead of a molecule as in thermotropic liquid crystals. Although it has been known for a long time that certain dyes, drugs, and nucleic acids form chromonic liquid crystals, only recently has enough knowledge been gained on how to control their alignment so that studies of their fundamental liquid crystal properties can be performed. In this article, a simple method for producing planar alignment of the nematic phase in chromonic liquid crystals is described, and this in turn is used to create twisted nematic structures of both achiral and chiral chromonic liquid crystals. The optics of 90-degree twist cells allows the anchoring strength to be measured in achiral systems, which for this alignment technique is quite weak, about 3 x 10(-7) J/m2 for both disodium cromoglycate and Sunset Yellow FCF. The addition of a chiral amino acid to the system causes the chiral nematic phase to form, and similar optical measurements in 90-degree twist cells produce a measurement of the intrinsic pitch of the chiral nematic phase. From these measurements, the helical twisting power for L-alanine is found to be (1.1 +/- 0.4) x 10(-2) mu m(-1) wt%(-1) for 15 wt% disodium cromoglycate.


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