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The Twist-Bend 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, for chiral molecules, the helical nematic and blue phases. The “twist-bend” 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 spontaneously chiral conical helix, appearing as broken symmetry since the bent molecular dimers are achiral, exhibits the amazingly short pitch of 8nm, making it the liquid crystal coherent ordering, illustrated by the atomistic simulation in the figure, 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.