Publications

2019
H. H. Wensink, “Effect of Size Polydispersity on the Pitch of Nanorod Cholesterics”, Crystals, vol. 9, 2019. WebsiteAbstract
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.
2018
H. Mundoor, Park, S., Senyuk, B., Wensink, H. H., and Smalyukh, I. I., “Hybrid molecular-colloidal liquid crystals”, SCIENCE, vol. 360, p. 768-771, 2018.Abstract
Order and fluidity often coexist, with examples ranging from biological membranes to liquid crystals, but the symmetry of these soft-matter systems is typically higher than that of the constituent building blocks. We dispersed micrometer-long inorganic colloidal rods in a nematic liquid crystalline fluid of molecular rods. Both types of uniaxial building blocks, while freely diffusing, interact to form an orthorhombic nematic fluid, in which like-sized rods are roughly parallel to each other and the molecular ordering direction is orthogonal to that of colloidal rods. A coarse-grained model explains the experimental temperature-concentration phase diagram with one biaxial and two uniaxial nematic phases, as well as the orientational distributions of rods. Displaying properties of biaxial optical crystals, these hybrid molecular-colloidal fluids can be switched by electric and magnetic fields.
C. Ferreiro-Cordova, Toner, J., Loewen, H., and Wensink, H. H., “Long-time anomalous swimmer diffusion in smectic liquid crystals”, PHYSICAL REVIEW E, vol. 97, p. 062606, 2018.Abstract
The dynamics of self-locomotion of active particles in aligned or liquid crystalline fluids strongly deviates from that in simple isotropic media. We explore the long-time dynamics of a swimmer moving in a three-dimensional smectic liquid crystal and find that the mean-square displacement transverse to the director exhibits a distinct logarithmic tail at long times. The scaling is distinctly different from that in an isotropic or nematic fluid and hints at the subtle but important role of the director fluctuation spectrum in governing the long-time motility of active particles. Our findings are based on a generic hydrodynamic theory and Brownian dynamics computer simulation of a three-dimensional soft mesogen model.