Dynamic Simulation of Droplet Interaction and Self-Assembly in a Nematic Liquid Crystal

Chunfeng Zhou, Pengtao Yue & James J. Feng

Langmuir 24, 3099-3110 (2008)

Abstract - We use dynamic simulations to explore the pairwise interaction and multi-particle assembly of droplets suspended in a nematic liquid crystal. The computation is based on a regularized Leslie-Ericksen theory that allows orientational defects. The homeotropic anchoring on the drop surface is of sufficient strength as to produce a satellite point defect near the droplet. Based on the position of the defects relative to the host droplet and the far-field molecular orientation, we have identified five types of pairwise attractive and repulsive forces. In particular, long-range attraction between two droplets with their line of centers along the far-field orientation decays as R-4 with the center-to-center separation R. This agrees with prior static calculations and a phenomenological model that treats the attraction as that between two dipoles. For interaction in shorter ranges, our simulations agree qualitatively with experimental measurements and static calculations. However, there is considerable quantitative discrepancy among the few existing studies and our simulation. We suggest that this is partly due to the dynamic nature of the process, which has never been taken into account in prior calculations. Multi-drop simulations show the formation of linear chains through pairwise interactions between nearby droplets. Parallel chains repel or attract each other depending on the relative orientation of the drop-to-defect vector. These are consistent with experimental observations of chain formation and two-dimensional self-assembly in bulk nematics and smectic-C films.