Publications

2018
H. H. Wensink and Anda, M. L., “Elastic moduli of a smectic membrane: a rod-level scaling analysis”, JOURNAL OF PHYSICS-CONDENSED MATTER, vol. 30, p. 075101, 2018.Abstract
Chiral rodlike colloids exposed to strong depletion attraction may self-assemble into chiral membranes whose twisted director field differs from that of a 3D bulk chiral nematic. We formulate a simple microscopic variational theory to determine the elastic moduli of rods assembled into a bidimensional smectic membrane. The approach is based on a simple Onsager-Straley theory for a non-uniform director field that we apply to describe rod twist within the membrane. A microscopic approach enables a detailed estimate of the individual Frank elastic moduli (splay, twist and bend) as well as the twist penetration depth of the smectic membrane in relation to the rod density and shape. We find that the elastic moduli are distinctly different from those of a bulk nematic fluid, with the splay elasticity being much stronger and the curvature elasticity much weaker than for rods assembled in a three-dimensional nematic fluid. We argue that the use of the simplistic one-constant approximation in which all moduli are assumed to be of equal magnitude is not appropriate for modelling the structure-property relation of smectic membranes.
H. H. Wensink, “Frank elasticity of composite colloidal nematics with anti-nematic order”, SOFT MATTER, vol. 14, p. 8935-8944, 2018.Abstract
Mixing colloid shapes with distinctly different anisotropy generates composite nematics in which the order of the individual components can be fundamentally different. In colloidal rod-disk mixtures or hybrid nematics composed of anisotropic colloids immersed in a thermotropic liquid crystal, one of the components may adopt so-called anti-nematic order while the other exhibits conventional nematic alignment. Focussing on simple models for hard rods and disks, we employ Onsager-Straley's second-virial theory to derive scaling expressions for the elastic moduli of rods and disks in both nematic and anti-nematic configurations and identify their explicit dependence on particle concentration and shape. We demonstrate that the splay, bend and twist elasticity of anti-nematically ordered particles scale logarithmically with the degree of anti-nematic order, with the bend-splay ratio for anti-nematic discotic nematics being far greater than for conventional nematic systems. The impact of surface anchoring on the elastic properties of hybrid nematics will also be discussed in detail. We further demonstrate that the elasticity of mixed uniaxial rod-disk nematics depends exquisitely on the shape of the components and we provide simple scaling expressions that could help engineer the elastic properties of composite nematic liquid crystals.