Nematic and Cholesteric Liquid Crystals: Concepts and Physical Properties Illustrated by Experiments, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Nematic and Cholesteric Liquid Crystals

Concepts and Physical Properties Illustrated by Experiments, 1st Edition

By Patrick Oswald, Pawel Pieranski

CRC Press

648 pages

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Liquid crystals allow us to perform experiments that provide insight into fundamental problems of modern physics, such as phase transitions, frustration, elasticity, hydrodynamics, defects, growth phenomena, and optics (linear and non linear). This excellent volume meets the need for an up-to-date text on liquid crystals.

Nematic and Cholesteric Liquid Crystals: Concepts and Physical Properties Illustrated by Experiments is a result of personal research and of the graduate lectures given by the authors at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon and the University of Paris VII, respectively. The first part of the book presents historical background, the modern classification of liquid crystals, and mesogenic anatomy; the second part examines liquid crystals with nematic and cholesteric orientational order. Topics include dielectric and magnetic properties, Frederiks transitions and displays, light scattering, flow and electrohydrodynamic instabilities, surface anchoring transitions, interfaces, equilibrium shapes, and the Mullins-Sekerka instability. Smectic and columnar liquid crystals are covered in more detail by the authors in a separate volume, entitled Smectic and Columnar Liquid Crystals: Concepts and Physical Properties Illustrated by Experiments.

The presentation is illustrated throughout by simple experiments, some of which were performed in class. Nematic and Cholesteric Liquid Crystals: Concepts and Physical Properties Illustrated by Experiments provides a useful reference intended for advanced undergraduate and graduate students and researchers in liquid crystals, condensed matter physics, and materials science.


"…authoritative and detailed…one notices the importance given to topics that have only received limited coverage elsewhere in the literature, such as surface phenomena (anchoring, faceting) and the dynamics of growth or deformation."

- Jacques Friedel, Académie des Sciences, Paris, France

"Oswald and Pieranski have written a book that should be in every scientific library and on many researchers' shelves. Both the experienced worker and the novice research student should find it extremely useful, both for its explanations of the basic principles and its elaboration of numerous subtleties."

– Peter J. Collings, Swarthmore College, in Liquid Crystals Today, 2008, Vol. 17, No 1 & 2

Table of Contents


Preface to the English edition

Nematic and Cholesteric Liquid Crystals


Some History

Georges Friedel and Liquid Crystals

The Discovery of Birefringence in Fluid Biological Substances by Buffon, Virchow, and Mettenheimer: Lyotropic Liquid Crystals

Observation of the Surprising Behavior of Cholesteryl Esters by Planer and Reinitzer: Thermotropic Liquid Crystals

Fliessende Kristalle or "The Flowing Crystals" of Otto Lehmann

Modern Classification of Liquid Crystals

The Terminology Introduced by Georges Friedel

Modern Definition of Mesophases; Broken Symmetries; Short- and Long-Distance Order

Classification of Smectic Phases

Classification of Columnar Phases

Chiral Smectic Phases

Mesogenic anatomy

Thermotropic Liquid Crystals

Lyotropic Liquid Crystals

Liquid Crystal Diblock Copolymers

Colloidal Liquid Crystals


Structure and Dielectric Properties of the Nematic Phase

Quadrupolar Order Parameter

The Uniaxial Nematic-Isotropic Liquid Phase Transition

The Uniaxial Nematic-Biaxial Nematic Phase Transition

Low-Frequency Dielectric Properties

Optical Properties

Nematoelasticity: Frederiks Transition and Light Scattering

Grupp Experiment

Frank-Oseen Free Energy

Free Energy Minimization: Molecular Field and Elastic Torques

Interpretation of the Grupp Experiment

Magnetic Field Action

Action of an Electric Field: Displays

Elastic Light Scattering and the Determination of the Frank Constants

Nonlinear Optics

Appendix 1: Calculating the Scattering Cross-Section

Appendix 2: Free Energy Expression in the Fourier Space

Nematodynamics and Flow Instabilities

Preliminary Observations Illustrating Some Fundamental Differences Between a Nematic and an Ordinary Liquid

Equations of the Linear Nematodynamics

Laminary Couette and Poiseuille Flows

Laminary Flows and Their Stability

Convective Instabilities of Electrohydrodynamic Origin

Thermal Instabilities

Appendix 1: "Derivation Under the Integral" Theorem

Appendix 2: Rotational Identity

Appendix 3: Calculation of the Irreversible Entropy Production

Appendix 4: Energy Dissipation and Constitutive Laws in the Formalism of Leslie-Ericksen-Parodi

Appendix 5: The Rayleigh-Bénard Instability in Isotropic Fluids

Defects and Textures in Nematics

Polarizing Microscope Observations

The Volterra-de Gennes-Friedel process

Energy of a Wedge Planar Line in Isotropic Elasticity

Continuous Core Model: Landau-Ginzburg-de Gennes Free Energy

Interaction Energy Between Two Parallel Wedge Lines

Dynamics of a Planar Wedge Line: Calculating the Friction Force

Wedge line Stability: Escape in the Third Dimension

Bloch and Ising Walls Induced by the Frederiks Instability

Anchoring and Anchoring Transitions of Nematics on Solid Surfaces


On the Notion of Interface

Interface Symmetry and Classification of the Different Types of Anchoring

Wetting and Anchoring Selection

Anchoring Transitions

Measuring the Anchoring Energy in the Homeotropic Case

The nematic-isotropic liquid interface:static properties and directional growth instabilities.

Anchoring Angle, Surface Tension, and Width of the Nematic-Isotropic Interface

Landau-Ginzburg-de Gennes Theory

Instabilities in Confined Geometry

Elastic Correction to the Gibbs-Thomson Relation

Directional Growth of the Nematic-Isotropic Liquid Front

Cholesterics: the First Example of a Frustrated Mesophase

Cholesteric Frustration

Cholesteric Order Parameter and the Cholesteric-Isotropic Liquid Phase Transition

Optical Properties of the Cholesteric Phase

Defects and Textures of the Cholesteric Phase

Unwinding Transition

Cholesteric Hydrodynamics

Blue Phases: a Second Example of a Frustrated Mesophase

Experimental Evidence for the Cubic Symmetry of Blue Phases I and II

Uniaxial Models for the Blue Phases: Disclination Lattices

Biaxial Model of the Blue Phases by Grebel, Hornreich, and Shtrikman

Landau Theory of the Blue Phases by Grebel, Hornreich, and Shtrikman


BPIII or Blue Fog

Overview of Growth Phenomena and _the Mullins-Sekerka Instability

Gibbs-Thomson Relation and the Phase Diagram of a Diluted Binary Mixture

The Minimal Model

Stationary Plane Front

Plane Front in the Diffusive Regime (£G

About the Authors/Editors

Patrick Oswald, Pawel Pieranski, John W. Goodby and George W. Gray

About the Series

Liquid Crystals Book Series

The Liquid Crystals Book Series publishes authoritative accounts of all aspects of the field, ranging from the basic fundamentals to the forefront of research, from the physics of liquid crystals to their chemical and biological properties, and from their self-assembling structures to their applications in devices. The series provides readers new to liquid crystals with a firm grounding in the subject, while offering experienced scientists and liquid crystallographers an indispensable resource to enhance their own research.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Chemistry / General
SCIENCE / Chemistry / Physical & Theoretical
SCIENCE / Chemistry / Industrial & Technical
SCIENCE / Solid State Physics