Soft self-assembling photonic materials such as cholesteric liquid crystals are attractive due to their multiple unique and useful properties, in particular, an optical band gap that can be continuously and dynamically tuned in response to weak external influences, easy device integration, compatibility with flexible architectures, and, as shown here, potential for submicrometer optical applications. We study such a system formed by a short-pitch cholesteric confined in the core of polymer fibers produced by coaxial electrospinning, showing that the selective reflection arising from the helical photonic structure of the liquid crystal is present even when its confining cavity is well below a micrometer in thickness, allowing as little as just half a turn of the helix to develop. At this scale, small height variations result in a dramatic change in the reflected color, in striking difference to the bulk behavior. These conclusions are made possible by combining focused ion beam (FIB) dissection and imaging of the internal fiber morphology with optical microscopy. The FIB dissection further reveals that the cross section of the cavity within the fiber can have a shape that is quite different from that of the outside fiber. This is critical for the photonic behavior of the composite fiber because different optical textures are generated not only by change in thickness but also by the shape of the cavity. Our results provide insights into the behavior of cholesterics in submicrometer cavities and demonstrate their potential at such dimensions. © 2013 American Chemical Society.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Science(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)
Enz, E., La Ferrara, V., & Scalia, G. (2013). Confinement-sensitive optical response of cholesteric liquid crystals in electrospun fibers. ACS Nano, 7(8), 6627 - 6635. https://doi.org/10.1021/nn400066n