Faculty Advisor

Germano S. Iannacchione

Faculty Advisor

P. K. Aravind

Faculty Advisor

Georgi Georgiev


Liquid crystals (LCs) are anisotropic fluids that exhibit numerous thermodynamically stable phases in between an isotropic liquid and a three-dimensionally ordered solid. In their simplest ordered phase, the nematic, LCs show orientational order due to molecular self assembly and at the same time maintaining fluid flow properties. In the smectic phase, they show both orientational and partial translational order characterized by a 1-d density wave. Liquid crystalline substances have been extensively studied due to their applications and as important physical models of self-assembly. The effect of the disorder and impurities on LC systems is an important and challenging problem to the fundamental understanding of phases ordering or self-assembly and continually attracts the attention of researchers. The disordered systems often display complex and rich phenomena, being the generalization of the pure (ideal) systems. Disorder can dramatically alter the physical properties of multi-component, composite systems. In particular, the effect of disorder on phase transitions is important as the disorder typically couples to the order parameter, which can be usefully described as a random local field that is conjugate to the order parameter. This is usually realized in systems with random inclusions in a phase ordering media, e.g., a colloidal dispersion of solids in a complex fluid. Another form of disorder is presented by dilution effects, which imposes instead the random breaking or weakening of intermolecular bonds or interactions responsible for the phase ordering. Exploring a good physical system representing random dilution effects in a controlled manner offers a physical probe to unresolved problems in the understanding of mesophasic order. This Dissertation presents a series of studies of dilution and different form of disorder effect on liquid crystal phase transitions. We have used high-resolution AC-calorimetry, dielectric spectroscopy as well as polarizing microscopy to characterize the effects of solvent such as hexane, acetone, decane, and nanomaterials such as multiwall carbon nanotubes and ferroelectric nanoparticles on the phase transitions of several liquid crystals. The liquid crystals of interest are: pentylcyanobiphenyl (5CB), octylcyanobiphenyl (8CB), and decylcyanobiphenyl (10CB). Studies have been carried out as a function of solvent, nanotube, and nanoparticles concentration and temperature spanning the isotropic to nematic (I-N), nematic to smectic-A (N-SmA), and isotropic to smectic-A (I-SmA) phase transitions.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Smectic-A, Carbon nanotubes, Nematic, AC-Calorimetry, Liquid crystals