Effect of electric fields on the director field and shape of nematic tactoids

Mohammadamin Safdari, Roya Zandi, Paul P.A.M. van der Schoot

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Abstract

Tactoids are spindle-shaped droplets of a uniaxial nematic phase suspended in the coexisting isotropic phase. They are found in dispersions of a wide variety of elongated colloidal particles, including actin, fd virus, carbon nanotubes, vanadium peroxide, and chitin nanocrystals. Recent experiments on tactoids of chitin nanocrystals in water show that electric fields can very strongly elongate tactoids even though the dielectric properties of the coexisting isotropic and nematic phases differ only subtly. We develop a model for partially bipolar tactoids, where the degree of bipolarness of the director field is free to adjust to optimize the sum of the elastic, surface, and Coulomb energies of the system. By means of a combination of a scaling analysis and a numerical study, we investigate the elongation and director field's behavior of the tactoids as a function of their size, the strength of the electric field, the surface tension, anchoring strength, the elastic constants, and the electric susceptibility anisotropy. We find that tactoids cannot elongate significantly due to an external electric field, unless the director field is bipolar or quasibipolar and somehow frozen in the field-free configuration. Presuming that this is the case, we find reasonable agreement with experimental data.
Original languageEnglish
Article number062703
Number of pages15
JournalPhysical Review E
Volume103
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2021

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