Novel defect structures in nematic liquid crystal shells

Phys Rev Lett. 2007 Oct 12;99(15):157801. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.99.157801. Epub 2007 Oct 9.


We use double-emulsion drops to experimentally investigate the defect structures of spherical shells of nematic liquid crystals. We uncover a rich scenario of coexisting defect structures dictated by the unavoidable finite thickness of even the thinnest shell and by the thickness variation around the sphere. These structures are characterized by a varying number of disclination lines and pairs of surface point defects on the inner and outer surfaces of the nematic shell. In the limit of very thick shells the defect structure ultimately merges with that of a bulk nematic liquid crystal drop.