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Bistable surface anchoring and hysteresis of pitch jumps in a planar cholesteric liquid crystal

McKay, Geoffrey (2012) Bistable surface anchoring and hysteresis of pitch jumps in a planar cholesteric liquid crystal. European Physical Journal E - Soft Matter, 35 (8). pp. 74-81. ISSN 1292-8941

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The relationship between bistable surface anchoring and the pitch jump process is examined for a planar cholesteric liquid crystal. Introducing a high-order, azimuthal surface anchoring potential into a simple model to describe a cholesteric, we derive an expression for the director twist as the natural pitch of the liquid crystal is allowed to vary. Writing the energy in terms of the surface twist, we are able to determine the twists which minimize the total energy of the system. We demonstrate how a pitch jump is related to an energy exchange from one branch of metastable states to another. We then discuss how the co-existence of energy minima and their associated solution branches may help explain the thermal hysteresis observed experimentally in cholesterics in the neighbourhood of a pitch jump. The presence of a higher-order surface energy term can expand the range of anchoring strengths in which pitch jumps are possible. We also investigate the influence of bidirectional surface anchoring on the behaviour of the total energy. Intermediate quarter-turn pitch jumps can occur, depending on the relative strength of the high-order anchoring term, and these can have a significant effect on the system hysteresis.