Emergence of periodic order in electric-field-driven planar nematic liquid crystals: an exclusive ac effect absent in static fields.

Research paper by K S KS Krishnamurthy, Pramoda P Kumar

Indexed on: 01 Feb '08Published on: 01 Feb '08Published in: Physical review. E, Statistical, nonlinear, and soft matter physics


We report, for a nematic liquid crystal with a low conductivity anisotropy, an ac field generated transition from a uniformly planar to a periodically modulated director configuration with the wave vector parallel to the initial director. Significantly, with unblocked electrodes, this instability is not excited by dc fields. Additionally, in very low frequency square wave fields, it occurs transiently after each polarity reversal, vanishing completely during field constancy. The time of occurrence of maximum distortion after polarity reversal decreases exponentially with voltage. The time dependence of optical phase change during transient distortion is nearly Gaussian. The pattern threshold Vc is linear in sqrt[f], f denoting the frequency; the critical wave number qc of the modulation scales nearly linearly as sqrt[f] to a peak at approximately 50 Hz before falling slightly thereafter. The observed Vc(f) and qc(f) characteristics differ from the predictions of the standard model (SM). The instability may be interpreted as a special case of the Carr-Helfrich distortion suppressed in static fields due to weak charge focusing and strong charge injection. Its transient nature in the low frequency regime is suggestive of the possible role of gradient flexoelectric effect in its occurrence. The study includes measurement of certain elastic and viscosity parameters relevant to the application of the SM.