Stripe instability in thin films of smectic liquid-crystal polymers
Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, CB3 0HE, Cambridge, UK
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Two-dimensional nanostripes are formed in thin films of side-chain liquid-crystalline polymer films when the material enters the smectic phase. The structure is investigated using transmission electron microscopy. Electron diffraction patterns show that the chain molecules are mostly aligned in the film plane and the average molecular director is parallel to the direction of the stripes. We discuss factors affecting the stripe amplitude and periodicity, such as the film thickness and the temperature of annealing in the nematic phase, and suggest a possible mechanism for their formation. We propose that an equilibrium instability occurs due to a competition between the layer-aligning effect of the substrate and the planar director alignment, forcing smectic layers perpendicular to the film surface. The stripes decorate the overall patterns of nematic director in the polymer film and provide a means of high-resolution imaging for observation of textures and disclinations.
© EDP Sciences, Società Italiana di Fisica, and Springer-Verlag, 2003