Gregor Posnjak, Simon Čopar & Igor Muševič
Topology has an increasingly important role in the physics of condensed matter, quantum systems, material science, photonics and biology, with spectacular realizations of topological concepts in liquid crystals. Here we report on long-lived hidden topological states in thermally quenched, chiral nematic droplets, formed from string-like, triangular and polyhedral constellations of monovalent and polyvalent singular point defects. These topological defects are regularly packed into a spherical liquid volume and stabilized by the elastic energy barrier due to the helical structure and confinement of the liquid crystal in the micro-sphere. We observe, for the first time, topological three-dimensional point defects of the quantized hedgehog charge q=−2, −3. These higher-charge defects act as ideal polyvalent artificial atoms, binding the defects into polyhedral constellations representing topological molecules.