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The orientation and dynamics of two 40-nm thick films of 4-n-pentyl-4‘-cyanobiphenyl (5CB), a nematic liquid crystal, have been studied using step-scan Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). The films are confined in nanocavities bounded by an interdigitated electrode array (IDA) patterned on a zinc selenide (ZnSe) substrate. The effects of the ZnSe surface morphology (specifically, two variations of nanometer-scale corrugations obtained by mechanical polishing) on the initial ordering and reorientation dynamics of the electric-field-induced Freedericksz transition are presented here. The interaction of the 5CB with ZnSe surfaces bearing a spicular corrugation induces a homeotropic (surface normal) alignment of the film confined in the cavity. Alternately, when ZnSe is polished to generate fine grooves along the surface, a planar alignment is promoted in the liquid crystalline film. Time-resolved FTIR studies that enable the direct measurement of the rate constants for the electric-field-induced orientation and thermal relaxation reveal that the dynamic transitions of the two film structures are significantly different. These measurements quantitatively demonstrate the strong effects of surface morphology on the anchoring, order, and dynamics of liquid crystalline thin films.


Originally published as:

Noble, Alison R., Hye J. Kwon, and Ralph G. Nuzzo. “Effects of Surface Morphology on the Anchoring and Electrooptical Dynamics of Confined Nanoscale Liquid Crystalline Films.” Journal of the American Chemical Society 124, no. 50 (December 2002): 15020–29.

ja021001p_s.pdf (81 kB)
Supplemental: Analysis of the optics of the spectroscopic measurements and complete three-dimensional time-resolved FTIR spectra (750−3100 cm-1) from step-scan experiments in both the perpendicular and parallel polarizations for the planar film.

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