Self-Organization in Phase Separation of a Lyotropic Liquid Crystal
Phase separation is one of the most fundamental physical phenomena that controls the morphology of heterogeneous structures. Phase separation of a binary mixture of simple liquids produces only two morphologies: a bicontinuous or a droplet structure in the case of a symmetric or an asymmetric composition, respectively. For complex fluids, there is a possibility to produce other interesting morphologies. We found that a network structure of the minority phase can also be induced transiently on phase separation if the dynamics of the minority phase are much slower than those of the majority phase. Here we induce a cellular structure of the minority phase intentionally with the help of its smectic ordering, using phase separation of a lyotropic liquid crystal into the isotropic and smectic phase. We can control the three morphologies, cellular, network and droplet structures, solely by changing the heating rate. We demonstrate that the kinetic interplay between phase separation and smectic ordering is a key to the morphological selection. This may provide a new route to the formation of network and cellular morphologies in soft materials.
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