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The Heliconical Nematic phase

LCMRC researchers have
found an extraordinary
nematic liquid crystal
phase, a new entry in the most widely studied and widely applied class of
liquid crystals.  In the whole history of
liquid crystals only four distinct
nematic ground states have been found: the uniaxial, the biaxial, and,
chiral molecules, the
nematic and blue
phases.  The “
heliconical” phase reported here
is a fundamentally new type of
nematic state exhibiting the first layer-free liquid crystal
ordering with coherent structure on the
nanoscale.  Its
chiral conical helix,
appearing as broken symmetry since the bent molecular
dimers such as CB7CB  are achiral, exhibits the amazingly short pitch of 8nm, making it
the liquid crystal coherent ordering that is closest in scale to the molecular
size, in this case 3nm.  This discovery,
as a result, promises a unique opportunity to advance liquid crystal science at
the interface of molecular design and soft matter physics.