Topological defects in liquid crystals as templates for molecular self-assembly

Nat Mater. 2016 Jan;15(1):106-12. doi: 10.1038/nmat4421. Epub 2015 Sep 21.

Abstract

Topological defects in liquid crystals (LCs) have been widely used to organize colloidal dispersions and template polymerization, leading to a range of assemblies, elastomers and gels. However, little is understood about molecular-level assembly processes within defects. Here, we report that nanoscopic environments defined by LC topological defects can selectively trigger processes of molecular self-assembly. By using fluorescence microscopy, cryogenic transmission electron microscopy and super-resolution optical microscopy, we observed signatures of molecular self-assembly of amphiphilic molecules in topological defects, including cooperativity, reversibility and controlled growth. We also show that nanoscopic o-rings synthesized from Saturn-ring disclinations and other molecular assemblies templated by defects can be preserved by using photocrosslinkable amphiphiles. Our results reveal that, in analogy to other classes of macromolecular templates such as polymer-surfactant complexes, topological defects in LCs are a versatile class of three-dimensional, dynamic and reconfigurable templates that can direct processes of molecular self-assembly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Boron Compounds / chemistry
  • Chemical Engineering / methods
  • Colloids / chemistry
  • Liquid Crystals / chemistry*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Structure
  • Thermodynamics

Substances

  • 4,4-difluoro-4-bora-3a,4a-diaza-s-indacene
  • Boron Compounds
  • Colloids