Phase-field model for a weakly compressible soft layered material: morphological transitions on smectic-isotropic interfaces

Eduardo Vitral, Perry H. Leo, Jorge Viñals

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Abstract

A coupled phase-field and hydrodynamic model is introduced to describe a two-phase, weakly compressible smectic (layered phase) in contact with an isotropic fluid of different density. A non-conserved smectic order parameter is coupled to a conserved mass density in order to accommodate non-solenoidal flows near the smectic-isotropic boundary arising from density contrast between the two phases. The model aims to describe morphological transitions in smectic thin films under heat treatment, in which arrays of focal conic defects evolve into conical pyramids and concentric rings through curvature dependent evaporation of smectic layers. The model leads to an extended thermodynamic relation at a curved surface that includes its Gaussian curvature, non-classical stresses at the boundary and flows arising from density gradients. The temporal evolution given by the model conserves the overall mass of the liquid crystal while still allowing for the modulated smectic structure to grow or shrink. A numerical solution of the governing equations reveals that pyramidal domains are sculpted at the center of focal conics upon a temperature increase, which display tangential flows at their surface. Other cases investigated include the possible coalescence of two cylindrical stacks of smectic layers, formation of droplets, and the interactions between focal conic domains through flow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6140-6159
Number of pages20
JournalSoft Matter
Volume17
Issue number25
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 30 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Royal Society of Chemistry 2021.

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