Chiral Symmetry Breaking And Surface Faceting In Chromonic Liquid Crystal Droplets With Giant Elastic Anisotropy

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Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences


Confined liquid crystals (LC) provide a unique platform for technological applications and for the study of LC properties, such as bulk elasticity, surface anchoring, and topological defects. In this work, lyotropic chromonic liquid crystals (LCLCs) are confined in spherical droplets, and their director configurations are investigated as a function of mesogen concentration using bright-field and polarized optical microscopy. Because of the unusually small twist elastic modulus of the nematic phase of LCLCs, droplets of this phase exhibit a twisted bipolar configuration with remarkably large chiral symmetry breaking. Further, the hexagonal ordering of columns and the resultant strong suppression of twist and splay but not bend deformation in the columnar phase, cause droplets of this phase to adopt a concentric director configuration around a central bend disclination line and, at sufficiently high mesogen concentration, to exhibit surface faceting. Observations of director configurations are consistent with Jones matrix calculations and are understood theoretically to be a result of the giant elastic anisotropy of LCLCs.