Continuous director-field transformation of nematic tactoids
Polymer Physics Group, Department of Applied Physics and Dutch Polymer Institute, Eindhoven University of Technology, P.O. Box 513, 5600, MB Eindhoven, The Netherlands
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We theoretically investigate the director field inside spindle-shaped nematic droplets, known as tactoids. Tactoids typically form in dispersions of rod-like colloidal particles. By optimising the bulk elastic and surface energies, we find that the director field crosses over smoothly from a homogeneous to a bipolar configuration with increasing droplet size, in a process that we postulate to involve two virtual point defects that move in from infinity towards the poles on the surface of the droplet. Our calculations show that these hypothesised virtual defects become true surface point defects or boojums only in the limit of infinite droplet volume, and that the more elongated the droplets are, the larger their volume has to be before a uniform director field distorts so as to become discernibly bipolar. The theory agrees well with available experimental data on the size dependence of the aspect ratio of tactoids.
© EDP Sciences, Società Italiana di Fisica, and Springer-Verlag, 2004