We consider thin films of a cholesteric liquid-crystal material subject to an applied electric field. In such materials, the liquid-crystal "director" (local average orientation of the long axis of the molecules) has an intrinsic tendency to rotate in space; while the substrates that confine the film tend to coerce a uniform orientation.
The electric field encourages certain preferred orientations of the director as well, and these competing influences give rise to several different stable equilibrium states of the director field, including spatially uniform, translation invariant (functions only of position across the cell gap) and periodic (with 1-D or 2-D periodicity in the plane of the film). These structures depend on two principal control parameters: the ratio of the cell gap to the intrinsic "pitch" (spatial period of rotation) of the cholesteric and the magnitude of the applied voltage.
We report on numerical work (not complete) on the bifurcation and phase behavior of this system. The study was motivated by potential applications involving switchable gratings and eyewear with tunable transparency. We compare our results with experiments conducted in the Liquid Crystal Institute at Kent State University.
- OxPDE Lunchtime Seminar