Study of Anchoring Behavior of Nematic Fluids at The Interface of Polymer-Dispersed Liquid Crystals
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A liquid crystal (LC) at its boundary surface adopts a preferential alignment, which is referred to as anchoring. The direction of this alignment (i.e., anchoring direction) may be perpendicular, parallel or tilted with respect to the surface. Transitions from one anchoring condition to another may occur when the parameters (e.g., temperature) charactering the surface change, as referred to as anchoring transitions. In the LC-polymer composite systems under our study, the anchoring and temperature- driven anchoring transitions of nematic fluids is very sensitive to the structure of the side chain of poly (alkyl acrylate) matrixes that encapsulate the LC. We have shown that the anchoring transition temperature of these systems can be tuned far below the nematic-to-isotropic transition temperature, by varying either the length, branching structure of the side chains of homopolymers, or the composition of copolymer of two dissimilar monomers. Both sharp and broad anchoring transitions with respect to the temperature range over which a transition occurs were observed. It is postulated that microscopic interactions between the polymer side chains and LC molecules play an important role in determining the anchoring. In particular, the conformation of the polymer side chain is proposed to have important control over the anchoring. Anchoring strength and tilt angle as a function of temperature during the anchoring transitions were also experimentally investigated, which contribute to understanding of the microscopic mechanism for such transitions. Based on the LC-polymer composites with controlled anchoring, a LC display with reverse switching mode and a novel electrically switchable diffraction grating have been demonstrated. The advantages of these devices are ease of manufacturing, low operation voltage, and mechanical stability offered by polymer matrix. Moreover, a detailed study of the director configuration of wall defects found in these composite films was carried out using fluorescence confocal polarized microscopy.