Effect of Size Polydispersity on the Pitch of Nanorod Cholesterics


H. H. Wensink, “Effect of Size Polydispersity on the Pitch of Nanorod Cholesterics”, Crystals, vol. 9, 2019.


Many nanoparticle-based chiral liquid crystals are composed of polydisperse rod-shaped particles with considerable spread in size or shape, affecting the mesoscale chiral properties in, as yet, unknown ways. Using an algebraic interpretation of Onsager-Straley theory for twisted nematics, we investigate the role of length polydispersity on the pitch of nanorod-based cholesterics with a continuous length polydispersity, and find that polydispersity enhances the twist elastic modulus, K 2 , of the cholesteric material without affecting the effective helical amplitude, K t . In addition, for the infinitely large average aspect ratios considered here, the dependence of the pitch on the overall rod concentration is completely unaffected by polydispersity. For a given concentration, the increase in twist elastic modulus (and reduction of the helical twist) may be up to 50% for strong size polydispersity, irrespective of the shape of the unimodal length distribution. We also demonstrate that the twist reduction is reinforced in bimodal distributions, obtained by doping a polydisperse cholesteric with very long rods. Finally, we identify a subtle, non-monotonic change of the pitch across the isotropic-cholesteric biphasic region.