Harnessing the properties of materials so that technology can continue to move forward means getting to grips with increasingly more challenging systems. Institute of Industrial Science at the University of Tokyo scientists have turned its focus to chiral molecular and colloidal crystals. It revealed the role of emergent elastic fields and their behavior. The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
It is easy for most people to picture the properties of the basic phases of matter we learn about at school. The frontiers of technology often draw on areas where things are less clear cut. Liquid crystal phases combine the molecule mobility of liquids and ordering or solids. This has allowed them to be applied in displays for a huge range of consumer devices. The transitions within these more complex phases can also be challenging to visualize.
Topological phase transitions involve the rearrangement of the components of a material into helix or vortex-like structures. It is known as skyrmions. The role that topological phase transitions play in certain chiral materials has been explored previously. It has not been investigated for chiral molecular or colloidal crystals. Chirality is the property of handedness. It is a good example of which is that our hands appear the same. They are non-superimposable mirror images.
Scientists created a model that allowed them to assess the interaction between the intermolecular chiral twisting and spheroidal steric interactions in two-dimensional chiral molecular and colloidal crystals.
Scientists demonstrated that the elastic coupling of the phase could be controlled using external triggers such as changing the temperature or applying an electromagnetic field or anisotropic stress.