Monday, May 27, 2013

Nematic liquid crystal boojums with handles on colloidal handlebodies

Qingkun Liu, Bohdan Senyuk, Mykola Tasinkevych, and Ivan I. Smalyukh
Topological defects that form on surfaces of ordered media, dubbed boojums, are ubiquitous in superfluids, liquid crystals (LCs), Langmuir monolayers, and Bose–Einstein condensates. They determine supercurrents in superfluids, impinge on electrooptical switching in polymer-dispersed LCs, and mediate chemical response at nematic-isotropic fluid interfaces, but the role of surface topology in the appearance, stability, and core structure of these defects remains poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate robust generation of boojums by controlling surface topology of colloidal particles that impose tangential boundary conditions for the alignment of LC molecules. To do this, we design handlebody-shaped polymer particles with different genus g. When introduced into a nematic LC, these particles distort the nematic molecular alignment field while obeying topological constraints and induce at least 2g − 2 boojums that allow for topological charge conservation. We characterize 3D textures of boojums using polarized nonlinear optical imaging of molecular alignment and explain our findings by invoking symmetry considerations and numerical modeling of experiment-matching director fields, order parameter variations, and nontrivial handle-shaped core structure of defects. Finally, we discuss how this interplay between the topologies of colloidal surfaces and boojums may lead to controlled self-assembly of colloidal particles in nematic and paranematic hosts, which, in turn, may enable reconfigurable topological composites.
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