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Influence of a magnetic field on the nematic phase of hard colloidal platelets

By D. van der Beek, P. Davidson, H.H. Wensink, G.J. Vroege and H.N.W. Lekkerkerker


We report on a study of the influence of a magnetic field on the nematic phase and the isotropic-to-nematic (IN) phase transition of hard colloidal gibbsite platelets. We find direct visual evidence of a shift of the IN transition to lower concentrations due to the magnetic field. The nematic phase readily aligns when contained between two parallel flat glass walls, with homeotropic orientation. This well-defined surface anchoring enables a measurement of the bend Frederiks transition, yielding the bend elastic constant of a nematic phase of hard disks as K3=7×10−14 N. By applying a rotating magnetic field on the nematic phase, we observe the bend-splay Frederiks transition, visible as a spatially periodic transient pattern with a wavelength that depends on sample thickness and field strength. Following a linear stability analysis we are able to account for this dependence in a qualitative way. Moreover, the rotating magnetic field enables us to render the nematic phase single domain, with well-defined director orientation

Year: 2008
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