Photocontrolled Phase Transitions and Reflection Behaviors of Smectic Liquid Crystals by a Chiral Azobenzene

Authors

  • Jingjing Guan,

    1. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Science and Technology Beijing, 30 Xueyuan Road, Haidian District, Beijing 100083 (China)
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  • Mingzhi Zhang,

    1. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Science and Technology Beijing, 30 Xueyuan Road, Haidian District, Beijing 100083 (China)
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  • Birong Li,

    1. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Science and Technology Beijing, 30 Xueyuan Road, Haidian District, Beijing 100083 (China)
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  • Prof. Huai Yang,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Science and Technology Beijing, 30 Xueyuan Road, Haidian District, Beijing 100083 (China)
    • Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Science and Technology Beijing, 30 Xueyuan Road, Haidian District, Beijing 100083 (China)
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  • Prof. Guojie Wang

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Science and Technology Beijing, 30 Xueyuan Road, Haidian District, Beijing 100083 (China)
    • Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Science and Technology Beijing, 30 Xueyuan Road, Haidian District, Beijing 100083 (China)
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Abstract

The photocontrolled phase transitions and reflection behaviors of a smectic liquid crystal, 4-octyl-4′-cyanobiphenyl (8CB), tuned by a chiral azobenzene, are systematically investigated. For the smectic 8CB doped with the chiral azobenzene (1R)-(−)-4-n-hexyl-4′-menthylazobenzene (ABE), the initial smectic phase can be switched to cholesteric and then to isotropic upon UV irradiation due to the trans-to-cis photoisomerization of ABE; however, no reflection band is observed. For the smectic 8CB doped with ABE and the chiral agent (S)-(−)-1,1′-binaphthyl-2,2′-diol (BN), a reflection band located in the short-wavelength infrared region is observed, which disappears after further UV irradiation. For the smectic 8CB doped with ABE and a chiral agent with higher helical twisting power, (S)-2,2′-methylendioxy-1,1′-binaphthalene (DBN), a phototunable system with cholesteric pitch short enough to reflect visible light is demonstrated. With a given concentration of the chiral dopant DBN, a reversible reflection color transition is realized tuned by the isomerization of azobenzene. The reverse phase transition from isotropic to cholesteric and then to smectic can be recovered upon visible irradiation. The photocontrolled phase transitions in smectic liquid crystals and the corresponding changes in reflection band switched by photoisomerization of azobenzene may provide impetus for their practical application in optical memories, displays, and switches.

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