Helical structures continue to inspire, prompted by examples such as DNA double-helix and alpha-helix in proteins. Most synthetic polymers also crystallize as helices, which relieves steric clashes by twisting, while keeping the molecules straight for their ordered packing. In columnar liquid crystals, which often display useful optoelectronic properties, overall helical chirality can be induced by inclusion of chiral chemical groups or dopants; these bias molecular twist to either left or right, analogous to a magnetic field aligning the spins in a paramagnet. In this work, however, we show that liquid-crystalline columns with long-range helical order can form by spontaneous self-assembly of straight- or bent-rod molecules without inclusion of any chiral moiety. A complex lattice with Fddd symmetry and 8 columns per unit cell (4 right-, 4 left-handed) characterizes this "antiferrochiral" structure. In selected compounds it allows close packing of their fluorescent groups reducing their bandgap and giving them promising light-emitting properties.
© 2022. The Author(s).