Influence of Specific Anions on the Orientational Ordering of Thermotropic Liquid Crystals at Aqueous Interfaces

Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison , Madison, Wisconsin 53706, United States.
Langmuir (Impact Factor: 4.46). 08/2012; 28(35):12796-805. DOI: 10.1021/la3024293
Source: PubMed


We report that specific anions (of sodium salts) added to aqueous phases at molar concentrations can trigger rapid, orientational ordering transitions in water-immiscible, thermotropic liquid crystals (LCs; e.g., nematic phase of 4'-pentyl-4-cyanobiphenyl, 5CB) contacting the aqueous phases. Anions classified as chaotropic, specifically iodide, perchlorate, and thiocyanate, cause 5CB to undergo continuous, concentration-dependent transitions from planar to homeotropic (perpendicular) orientations at LC-aqueous interfaces within 20 s of addition of the anions. In contrast, anions classified as relatively more kosmotropic in nature (fluoride, sulfate, phosphate, acetate, chloride, nitrate, bromide, and chlorate) do not perturb the LC orientation from that observed without added salts (i.e., planar orientation). Surface pressure-area isotherms of Langmuir films of 5CB supported on aqueous salt solutions reveal ion-specific effects ranking in a manner similar to the LC ordering transitions. Specifically, chaotropic salts stabilized monolayers of 5CB to higher surface pressures and areal densities (12.6 mN/m at 27 Å(2)/molecule for NaClO(4)) and thus smaller molecular tilt angles (30° from the surface normal for NaClO(4)) than kosmotropic salts (5.0 mN/m at 38 Å(2)/molecule with a corresponding tilt angle of 53° for NaCl). These results and others reported herein suggest that anion-specific interactions with 5CB monolayers lead to bulk LC ordering transitions. Support for the proposition that these ion-specific interactions involve the nitrile group was obtained by using a second LC with nitrile groups (E7; ion-specific effects similar to 5CB were observed) and a third LC with fluorine-substituted aromatic groups (TL205; weak dipole and no ion-specific effects were measured). Finally, we also establish that anion-induced orientational transitions in micrometer-thick LC films involve a change in the easy axis of the LC. Overall, these results provide new insights into ionic phenomena occurring at LC-aqueous interfaces, and reveal that the long-range ordering of LC oils can amplify ion-specific interactions at these interfaces into macroscopic ordering transitions.

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