Asymmetric Pairing of Cholesteric Liquid Crystal Droplets for Programmable Photonic Cross-Communication

Small. 2023 Jun 9;e2303728. doi: 10.1002/smll.202303728. Online ahead of print.


The photonic cross-communication between photonic droplets has provided complex color patterns through multiple reflections, potentially serving as novel optical codes. However, the cross-communication is mostly restricted to symmetric pairs of identical droplets. Here, a design rule is reported for the asymmetric pairing of two distinct droplets to provide bright color patterns through strong cross-communication and enrich a variety of optical codes. Cholesteric liquid crystal (CLC) droplets with different stopband positions and sizes are paired. The brightness of corresponding color patterns is maximized when the pairs are selected to effectively guide light along the double reflection path by stopbands of two droplets. The experimental results are in good agreement with a geometric model where the blueshift of stopbands is better described by the angles of refraction rather than reflection. The model predicts the effectiveness of pairing quantitatively, which serves as a design rule for programming the asymmetric photonic cross-communication. Moreover, three distinct droplets can be paired in triangular arrays, where all three cross-communication paths yield bright color patterns when three droplets are selected to simultaneously satisfy the rule. It is believed that asymmetric pairing of distinct CLC droplets opens new opportunities for programmable optical encoding in security and anti-counterfeiting applications.

Keywords: cholesteric liquid crystals; cross-communications; photonic bandgaps; photonic droplets; structural colors.