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Ferroelectricity in low-symmetry biaxial nematic liquid crystals

Osipov, M.A. and Gorkunov, M.V. (2010) Ferroelectricity in low-symmetry biaxial nematic liquid crystals. Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter, 22 (36). ISSN 0953-8984

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Abstract

Order parameters and phenomenological theory for both high- and low-symmetry biaxial nematic phases are presented and it is predicted that the chiral low-symmetry biaxial phase must be ferroelectric. This conclusion is based on general symmetry arguments and on the results of the Landau-de Gennes theory. The microscopic mechanism of the ferroelectric ordering in this chiral biaxial phase is illustrated using a simple molecular model based on dispersion interactions between biaxial molecules of low symmetry. Similar to the chiral smectic C* phase, the ferroelectricity in the chiral biaxial nematic phase is improper, i.e., polarization is not a primary order parameter and is not determined by dipolar interactions. Ferroelectric ordering in biaxial nematics may be found, in principle, in materials composed of chiral analogues of the tetrapod molecules which are known to exhibit biaxial phases.