Colloidal particles dispersed in liquid crystals induce nematic fields and topological defects that are dictated by the shape of the particles and their surface properties. In an article published in Nature Materials, a team of researchers from the Centro de Física Teórica e Computacional (CFTC) in Lisbon and the University of Colorado at Boulder (UCB) adds to the knowledge of the shape dependence of colloidal self-assembly in liquid crystalline environment.
Smalyukh and co-workers fabricated rigid polimeric micrometric tubes shaped into springs and helices of different handedness end embedded them in a nematic liquid crystal. The researchers demonstrated, by combining state-of-the art experimental (UCB) and simulation (CFTC) methods, how the chiral asymmetry of colloidal particles interplays with the liquid crystal elasticity to pre-determine chiral or racemic self-assembled structures by controlling handedness of individual colloidal constituents.
These new techniques may provide a rich framework for designing and realizing complex chiral nematic colloidal composites.