The mutual attraction between colloidal particles in an anisotropic fluid, such as the nematic liquid crystal phase, leads to the formation of hierarchical aggregate morphologies distinct from those that tend to form in isotropic fluids. Previously it was difficult to study this aggregation process for a large number of colloids due to the difficulty of achieving a well dispersed initial colloid distribution under good imaging conditions. In this paper, we report the use of a recently developed self-assembling colloidal system to investigate this process. Hollow, micron-scale colloids are formed in situ in the nematic phase and subsequently aggregate to produce fractal structures and colloidal gels, the structures of which are determined by colloid concentration and temperature quench depth through the isotropic to nematic phase transition point. This self-assembling colloidal system provides a unique method to study particle aggregation in liquid crystal over large length scales. We use fluorescence microscopy over a range of length scales to measure aggregate structure as a function of temperature quench depth, observe ageing mechanisms and explore the driving mechanisms in this unique system. Our analyses suggest that aggregate dynamics depend on a combination of Frank elasticity relaxation, spontaneous defect line annihilation and internal aggregate fracturing.
Coupling between flows and material properties imbues rheological matter with its wide-ranging applicability, hence the excitement for harnessing the rheology of active fluids for which internal structure and continuous energy injection lead to spontaneous flows and complex, out-of-equilibrium dynamics. We propose and demonstrate a convenient, highly tunable method for controlling flow, topology, and composition within active films. Our approach establishes rheological coupling via the indirect presence of fully submersed micropatterned structures within a thin, underlying oil layer. Simulations reveal that micropatterned structures produce effective virtual boundaries within the superjacent active nematic film due to differences in viscous dissipation as a function of depth. This accessible method of applying position-dependent, effective dissipation to the active films presents a nonintrusive pathway for engineering active microfluidic systems.
This revised edition continues to provide the most approachable introduction to the structure, characteristics, and everyday applications of soft matter. It begins with a substantially revised overview of the underlying physics and chemistry common to soft materials. Subsequent chapters comprehensively address the different classes of soft materials, from liquid crystals to surfactants, polymers, colloids, and biomaterials, with vivid, full-color illustrations throughout. There are new worked examples throughout, new problems, some deeper mathematical treatment, and new sections on key topics such as diffusion, active matter, liquid crystal defects, surfactant phases and more.
• Introduces the science of soft materials, experimental methods used in their study, and wide-ranging applications in everyday life.
• Provides brand new worked examples throughout, in addition to expanded chapter problem sets and an updated glossary.
• Includes expanded mathematical content and substantially revised introductory chapters.
This book will provide a comprehensive introductory resource to both undergraduate and graduate students discovering soft materials for the first time and is aimed at students with an introductory college background in physics, chemistry or materials science.
Rapid bulk assembly of nanoparticles into microstructures is
challenging, but highly desirable for applications in controlled
release, catalysis, and sensing. We report a method to form hollow
microstructures via a two-stage nematic nucleation process, generating
size-tunable closed-cell foams, spherical shells, and tubular networks
composed of closely packed nanoparticles. Mesogen-modified nanoparticles
are dispersed in liquid crystal above the nematic-isotropic transition
temperature (TNI). On cooling through TNI,
nanoparticles first segregate into shrinking isotropic domains where
they locally depress the transition temperature. On further cooling,
nematic domains nucleate inside the nanoparticle-rich isotropic domains,
driving formation of hollow nanoparticle assemblies. Structural
differentiation is controlled by nanoparticle density and cooling rate.
Cahn-Hilliard simulations of phase separation in liquid crystal
demonstrate qualitatively that partitioning of nanoparticles into
isolated domains is strongly affected by cooling rate, supporting
experimental observations that cooling rate controls aggregate size.
Microscopy suggests the number and size of internal voids is controlled
by second-stage nucleation.
The Hirst Lab has been awarded a new three-year NSF grant along with collaborator UC Merced’s Kevin Mitchell.
The grant, combining experiment and theory is titled “Self-mixing Active Fluids”
Active matter is one of the most exciting frontiers in soft matter science. Unlike typical fluids, active fluids are not in equilibrium. Instead, they consume energy locally, translating this energy into internal flows and spontaneous mixing. In this project, mass transport and chaotic mixing in active fluids will be investigated using a fluid consisting of microtubules and kinesin, biological molecules found in the cell. Densely packed microtubules slide antiparallel to each other at a controlled rate due to coupled kinesin molecular motors. An exciting outcome of this work could be the development of a new class of self-mixing active solvents. Such a solvent could revolutionize our understanding of the kinetics of mass transport and chemical reactions. The present proposal concerns much larger length scales than that of standard solvents and will thus serve as an experimental model for these new ideas, helping to establish fundamental laws that govern the behavior of active matter. Since the contents of biological cells are highly complex active materials, far from equilibrium, this work is expected to yield new insights into the role of active materials in biology. A proposed Telluride workshop on transport in active fluids will help to bring together the relatively disparate fields of liquid crystals, biological fluids and nonlinear dynamics. This work will have a significant educational impact at UC Merced, a new university in one of California’s most socio-economically disadvantaged areas. This research will provide the basis for several undergraduate theses and the PIs will use insights from this work to introduce cutting edge materials to their graduate and undergraduate teaching.
This project focuses on transport and mixing in a biologically inspired extensile active nematic. Densely packed microtubules slide antiparallel to each other at a controlled rate due to kinesin molecular motors and the resulting chaotic advection will be measured on different length scales, using the experimental tools of particle tracking, particle image velocimetry, and fluorescence imaging of labeled tracers. Experimental data will be theoretically interpreted using the tools of nonlinear and topological dynamics, thereby merging the fields of chaotic advection and liquid crystals in a unique collaborative effort. Topological entropy will play a central, unifying role in this study. Topological entropy is well known in studies of chaotic advection, but has been thus far overlooked in studies of active nematics. Specific aims are to: 1) use bead tracking and velocity reconstruction, together with tools from nonlinear dynamics, to measure the topological entropy of active nematic mixing; 2) measure the effective diffusivity, enhanced by chaotic advection, of the active nematic on the macroscale; and 3) investigate correlations between molecular-scale dynamics, mesoscale mixing, and macroscale diffusion by varying system parameters.
Nathan Melton, our most recent graduate walked at UC Merced commencement this month. Nathan’s recent work, focused on topological defects in liquid crystals with a new paper just out last month in the journal Nanomaterials.
“Phase-transition-driven nanoparticle assembly in liquid crystal droplets” Charles N. Melton, Sheida T. Riahinasab, Amir Keshavarz, Benjamin J. Stokes and Linda S. Hirst, Nanomaterials, 8, 146 (2018). Link
Nathan has already started work as a postdoctoral scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab at the Advanced Light Source!
Recently Prof Hirst authored a News and Views in Nature focussed on two exciting articles about the cell epithelium as active matter.
“Evidence has been found that a biological tissue might behave like a liquid crystal. Even more remarkably, topological defects in this liquid-crystal system seem to influence cell behaviour. A materials physicist and a biologist discuss what the findings mean for researchers in their fields”.