Chiral Structures from Achiral Micellar Lyotropic Liquid Crystals under Capillary Confinement
Journal article, 2017
Recently, the emergence of spontaneous reflection-symmetry broken configurations in achiral chromonic liquid crystals confined in cylindrical capillaries with homeotropic anchoring at the cylinder walls was reported, namely, the so-called twisted-escaped radial (TER) and twisted planar polar (TPP) configurations. This new example of spontaneous reflection symmetry breaking in liquid crystals was attributed to the twist elastic modulus, which is known to be unusually small in comparison to the splay and bend moduli in the case of chromonic liquid crystals. We now report the experimental observation of reflection symmetry breaking in cylindrical capillaries in the case of a classical, achiral, and nonchromonic lyotropic liquid crystal forming a nematic phase of disklike micelles orienting homeotropically at the capillary walls. We observed the same chiral TER configuration, as well as a nonplanar twisted polar (TP) configuration. The TP configuration is characterized by two half-unit so-called twist disclinations, where the director twist around the line defects drives the formation of a double helix of the disclinations along the axis of the capillary. Additionally, there is a transverse twist between the two disclination lines with the same handedness as the axial twist. Similarities with and differences from the case of chromonic liquid crystals are discussed; in particular, we examine the conditions under which spontaneous reflection symmetry breaking occurs in the nonchromonic system. It seems that the chiral TER configuration can be stabilized by the presence of point defects.