Fully Stable And Homogeneous Lyotropic Liquid Crystal Alignment On Anisotropic Surfaces

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Advanced Functional Materials


Lyotropic chromonic liquid crystals have great potential in both biosensing and optical devices due to their biocompatible nature and strong optical characteristics. These applications, however, demand a homogeneous and stable alignment on anisotropic surfaces, a challenge that, so far, has not been solved adequately. In this work, it is shown how to drastically increase the quality of in-plane alignment and stability of these liquid crystals on conventional rubbed polyimide substrates by the addition of a small amount of a nonionic surfactant. Samples with surfactant show excellent alignment that is stable for months, while control samples without surfactant show much poorer alignment that further deteriorates in days. Also, well-aligned dry films of chromonics can be prepared following this approach. It is demonstrated how to obtain high-quality alignment by controlling the concentration and the nature of the surfactant, in particular its molecular structure and hydrophilic/lipophilic balance (HLB value) and other critical parameters are discussed. It is believed that this approach may very well be essential for advancing the applicability of these water-based, biocompatible, and often highly dichroic materials for a wide range of uses.