Dissipative Particle Dynamics Simulation of the Sensitive Anchoring Behavior of Smectic Liquid Crystals at Aqueous Phase

SW Chen and JL Zhang and HL Liu and TY Qiu and HX Tang and ZM Zhang, MOLECULES, 27, 7433 (2022).

DOI: 10.3390/molecules27217433

Rational design of thermotropic liquid crystal (LC)-based sensors utilizing different mesophases holds great promise to open up novel detection modalities for various chemical and biological applications. In this context, we present a dissipative particle dynamics study to explore the unique anchoring behavior of nematic and smectic LCs at amphiphile-laden aqueous-LC interface. By increasing the surface coverage of amphiphiles, two distinct anchoring sequences, a continuous planar-tilted-homeotropic transition and a discontinuous planar-to- homeotropic transition, can be observed for the nematic and smectic LCs, respectively. More importantly, the latter occurs at a much lower surface coverage of amphiphiles, demonstrating an outstanding sensitivity for the smectic-based sensors. The dynamics of reorientation further reveals that the formation of homeotropic smectic anchoring is mainly governed by the synchronous growth of smectic layers through the LCs, which is significantly different from the mechanism of interface- to-bulk ordering propagation in nematic anchoring. Furthermore, the smectic LCs have also been proven to possess a potential selectivity in response to a subtle change in the chain rigidity of amphiphiles. These simulation findings are promising and would be valuable for the development of novel smectic-based sensors.

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