Manipulating molecular order in nematic liquid crystal capillary bridges via surfactant adsorption: guiding principles from dissipative particle dynamics simulations

Z Sumer and A Striolo, PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 20, 30514-30524 (2018).

DOI: 10.1039/c8cp04492a

The ability of liquid crystals (LCs) to change orientational order is used in applications, ranging from sensors to displays. The aim of this work is to computationally investigate how surfactant adsorption on cylindrical LC bridges can be used to control such orientational order. Building from classical fundamental lessons, understanding the ordering of mesogens along a preferred axis with the help of molecular modelling contributes to investigations of systems that could be a platform for LC-based sensing applications. The coarse-grained dissipative particle dynamics (DPD) simulation method is implemented here, because it allows us to quantify the effect of molecular features on the properties of meso-scopic systems containing LC bridges, an aqueous solvent, and surfactants at various concentrations. Three surfactant types are modelled with short, medium, and long tail lengths, respectively. All surfactants adsorb at the LC-water interface. It is found that the length of the surfactant hydrophobic tail determines the effectiveness by which the LC order is affected. Short tails are not as effective as long ones. Surfactants with long tails affect the LC order, but, in agreement with experiments, predominantly only within a short distance from the LC-water interface. For these surfactants, the surface density at the LC-water interface is an important knob that can be used to control the order of the LCs. As the effective LC-surfactant interactions change, so does the distribution of the surfactants at the interface. Consistent with theoretical expectations, the results presented here elucidate the effect of molecular features on the anchoring mechanism between surfactants and mesogens within cylindrical bridges dispersed in aqueous systems and could be helpful for designing novel surface-active compounds in the development of advanced sensing devices based on LCs.

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