Molecular dynamics of thermotropic liquid crystals: anomalous relaxation dynamics of calamitic and discotic liquid crystals


ABSTRACT Recent optical kerr effect (OKE) studies have demonstrated that orientational relaxation of rod-like nematogens exhibits temporal power law decay at intermediate times not only near the isotropic–nematic (I–N) phase boundary but also in the nematic phase. Such behaviour has drawn an intriguing analogy with supercooled liquids. We have investigated both collective and single-particle orientational dynamics of a family of model system of thermotropic liquid crystals using extensive computer simulations. Several remarkable features of glassy dynamics are on display including non-exponential relaxation, dynamical heterogeneity, and non-Arrhenius temperature dependence of the orientational relaxation time. Over a temperature range near the I–N phase boundary, the system behaves remarkably like a fragile glass-forming liquid. Using proper scaling, we construct the usual relaxation time versus inverse temperature plot and explicitly demonstrate that one can successfully define a density dependent fragility of liquid crystals. The fragility of liquid crystals shows a temperature and density dependence which is remarkably similar to the fragility of glass forming supercooled liquids. Energy landscape analysis of inherent structures shows that the breakdown of the Arrhenius temperature dependence of relaxation rate occurs at a temperature that marks the onset of the growth of the depth of the potential energy minima explored by the system. A model liquid crystal, consisting of disk-like molecules, has also been investigated in molecular dynamics simulations for orientational relaxation along two isobars starting from the high temperature isotropic phase. The isobars have been so chosen that the phase sequence isotropic (I)–nematic (N)–columnar (C) appears upon cooling along one of them and the sequence isotropic (I)–columnar (C) along the other. While the orientational relaxation in the isotropic phase near the I–N phase transition shows a power law decay at short to intermediate times, such power law relaxation is not observed in the isotropic phase near the I–C phase boundary. The origin of the power law decay in the single-particle second-rank orientational time correlation function (OTCF) is traced to the growth of the orientational pair distribution functions near the I–N phase boundary. As the system settles into the nematic phase, the decay of the single-particle second-rank orientational OTCF follows a pattern that is similar to what is observed with calamitic liquid crystals and supercooled molecular liquids.

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    ABSTRACT: Recent Kerr relaxation experiments by Gottke et al. have revealed the existence of a pronounced temporal power law decay in the orientational relaxation near the isotropic-nematic phase transition (INPT) of nematogens of rather small aspect ratio, kappa (kappa approximately 3-4). We have carried out very long (50 ns) molecular dynamics simulations of model (Gay-Berne) prolate ellipsoids with aspect ratio 3 in order to investigate the origin of this power law. The model chosen is known to undergo an isotropic to nematic phase transition for a range of density and temperature. The distance dependence of the calculated angular pair correlation function correctly shows the emergence of a long range correlation as the INPT is approached along the density axis. In the vicinity of INPT, the single particle second rank orientational time correlation function exhibits power law decay, (t(-alpha)) with exponent alpha approximately 2/3. More importantly, we find the sudden appearance of a pronounced power-law decay in the collective part of the second rank orientational time correlation function at short times when the density is very close to the transition density. The power law has an exponent close to unity, that is, the correlation function decays almost linearly with time. At long times, the decay is exponential-like, as predicted by Landau-de Gennes mean field theory. Since Kerr relaxation experiments measure the time derivative of the collective second rank orientational pair correlation function, the simulations recover the near independence of the signal on time observed in experiments. In order to capture the microscopic essence of the dynamics of pseudonematic domains inside the isotropic phase, we introduce and calculate a dynamic orientational pair correlation function (DOPCF) obtained from the coefficients in the expansion of the distinct part of orientational van Hove time correlation function in terms of spherical harmonics. The DOPCF exhibits power law relaxation when the pair separation length is below certain critical length. The orientational relaxation of a local director, defined in terms of the sum of unit vectors of all the ellipsoidal molecules, is also found to show slow power law relaxation over a long time scale. These results have been interpreted in terms of a newly developed mode coupling theory of orientational dynamics near the INPT. In the present case, the difference between the single particle and the collective orientational relaxation is huge which can be explained by the frequency dependence of the memory kernel, calculated from the mode coupling theory. The relationship of this power law with the one observed in a supercooled liquid near its glass transition temperature is explored.
    The Journal of Chemical Physics 07/2004; 120(23):11256-66. · 3.12 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Orientational dynamics in a liquid crystalline system near the isotropic-nematic (IN) phase transition is studied using molecular dynamics simulations of the well-known Lebwohl-Lasher model. As the IN transition temperature is approached from the isotropic side, we find that the decay of the orientational time correlation functions (OTCF) slows down noticeably, giving rise to a power law decay at intermediate time scales. The angular velocity time correlation function also exhibits a rather pronounced power law decay near the IN boundary. In the mean squared angular displacement at comparable time scales, we observe the emergence of a subdiffusive regime which is followed by a superdiffusive regime before the onset of the long-time diffusive behavior. We observe signature of dynamical heterogeneity through pronounced non-Gaussian behavior in orientational motion particularly at lower temperatures. This behavior closely resembles what is usually observed in supercooled liquids. We obtain the free energy as a function of orientational order parameter by the use of the transition matrix Monte Carlo method. The free energy surface is flat for the system considered here and the barrier between isotropic and nematic phases is vanishingly small for this weakly first-order phase transition, hence allowing large scale, collective, and correlated orientational density fluctuations. This might be responsible for the observed power law decay of the OTCFs.
    Physical Review E 07/2006; 73(6 Pt 1):061706. · 2.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We find in a model system of thermotropic liquid crystals that the translational diffusion coefficient parallel to the director D(parallel) first increases and then decreases as temperature drops through the nematic phase, and this reversal occurs where the smectic order parameter of the underlying inherent structures becomes significant. We argue, based on an energy landscape analysis, that the coupling between orientational and translational order can play a role in inducing the nonmonotonic temperature behavior of D(parallel). Such a view is likely to form the foundation of a theoretical framework to explain the anisotropic translation diffusion.
    Physical Review E 11/2006; 74(4 Pt 1):041704. · 2.31 Impact Factor

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