Colloidal aggregation in liquid crystal

Colloidal aggregation in anisotropic liquid crystal solvent

Devika G. Sudha, Jocelyn Ochoa and Linda S. Hirst, Soft Matter (2021) 

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.

COntroling active flows

Submersed micropatterned structures control active nematic flow, topology, and concentration

Kristian Thijssen*, Dimitrius A. Khaladj*, S. Ali Aghvami, Mohamed Amine Gharbi, Seth Fraden, Julia M. Yeomans, Linda S. Hirst, and  Tyler N. Shendruk

PNAS September 21, 2021 118 (38) e2106038118;

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.

Merced team studying shark electrosensing

Our lab recently published two new papers on the subject of electro-sensing in cartilaginous fishes, a group that includes sharks and rays. The sensing organ (AoL) in these fish is filled with a gel-like substance and we are interesting is figuring out how this gel works!

In the first paper our team, Lead by Molly Phillips, a graduate student in Chris Amemiya’s lab at Merced investigated the role of chitin in the electrosensory gel.

“Evidence of chitin in the ampullae of Lorenzini of chondrichthyan fishes”Molly Phillips, W. Joyce Tang, Matthew Robinson, Daniel Ocampo Daza, Khan Hassan, Valerie Leppert, Linda S. Hirst, Chris T. Amemiya, , Current Biology, Volume 30, Issue 20, 2020, Pages R1254-R1255,

The second paper focuses on the structure of the gel.

Structural Characteristics and Proton Conductivity of the Gel Within the Electrosensory Organs of Cartilaginous Fishes Molly Phillips, Alauna Wheeler, Matthew J Robinson, Valerie Leppert, Manping Jia, Marco Rolandi, Linda S Hirst, Chris T Amemiya, ISCIENCE, in press (2021) August 03, (2021)

Co-authors include Physics graduate student Alauna Wheeler, who conducted the X-ray work with Phillips at the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; graduate student Matthew Robinson; and UC Santa Cruz electrical engineering Professor Marco Rolandi and his graduate student Manping Jia. The Santa Cruz team provided equipment and expertise for the conductance measurements.