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  1. We have structurally characterized the liquid crystal (LC) phase that can appear as an intermediate state when a dielectric nematic, having polar disorder of its molecular dipoles, transitions to the almost perfectly polar-ordered ferroelectric nematic. This intermediate phase, which fills a 100-y-old void in the taxonomy of smectic LCs and which we term the “smectic Z A ,” is antiferroelectric, with the nematic director and polarization oriented parallel to smectic layer planes, and the polarization alternating in sign from layer to layer with a 180 Å period. A Landau free energy, originally derived from the Ising model of ferromagnetic ordering of spins in the presence of dipole–dipole interactions, and applied to model incommensurate antiferroelectricity in crystals, describes the key features of the nematic–SmZ A –ferroelectric nematic phase sequence. 
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  2. We report the observation of the smectic A F , a liquid crystal phase of the ferroelectric nematic realm. The smectic A F is a phase of small polar, rod-shaped molecules that form two-dimensional fluid layers spaced by approximately the mean molecular length. The phase is uniaxial, with the molecular director, the local average long-axis orientation, normal to the layer planes, and ferroelectric, with a spontaneous electric polarization parallel to the director. Polarization measurements indicate almost complete polar ordering of the ∼10 Debye longitudinal molecular dipoles, and hysteretic polarization reversal with a coercive field ∼2 × 10 5 V / m is observed. The SmA F phase appears upon cooling in two binary mixtures of partially fluorinated mesogens: 2N/DIO, exhibiting a nematic (N)–smectic Z A (SmZ A )–ferroelectric nematic (N F )–SmA F phase sequence, and 7N/DIO, exhibiting an N–SmZ A –SmA F phase sequence. The latter presents an opportunity to study a transition between two smectic phases having orthogonal systems of layers. 
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  3. In high-resolution adiabatic scanning calorimetry (ASC) experiments, data for the temperature dependence of the specific enthalpy, h(T), and of the specific heat capacity, c(p)(T), are simultaneously obtained, from which the order of the phase transition and critical behaviour can be evaluated. ASC was applied to study the nematic to ferroelectric nematic phase transition (N-N-F) in the liquid crystal molecule 4-[(4-nitrophenoxy)carbonyl]phenyl 2,4-dimethoxybenzoate (RM734). The N-N-F was found to be very weakly first order with a latent heat Delta h = 0.115 +/- 0.005 J/g. The pretransitional specific heat capacity behaviour is substantially larger in the high-temperature N phase than in the low-temperature N-F phase. In both phases the power-law analysis of c(p)(T) resulted in a critical exponent alpha = 0.50 +/- 0.05 and amplitude ratio A(NF)/A(N) = 0.42 +/- 0.03. The very small latent heat and the value of alpha indicate that the N-N-F transition is close to a tricritical point. This is confirmed by a value of the order parameter exponent beta approximate to 0.25, recently obtained from electric polarisation measurements. Invoking two-scale-factor universality, it follows from the low value of A(NF)/A(N) ratio that the size of the critical fluctuations is much larger in the N-F phase than in the N phase. 
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  4. Abstract

    We report a three-dimensional (3D) molecular orientation control of a liquid crystal organic semiconductor (LC-OSC) based on the long-range ordering characteristic of an LC material. To this end, a synthetic LC-OSC molecule, MeOPh-BTBT-C8, with a fluidic nematic (N) phase that is essential for alignment control over a large area and a smectic E (SmE) phase showing high ordering, was prepared. A simple flipping of a sandwich cell made of the LC-OSC material between the top and bottom substrates that have uniaxial–planar degenerated alignment as well as crossed rubbing directions responds to the given surface anchoring condition and temperature gradient. Optical observation of the alignment-controlled LC-OSC was carried out by polarized optical microscopy (POM), and the corresponding charge carrier mobility was also measured by fabricating organic field-effect transistors (OFETs). Our platform offers a facile approach for multidirectional and multifunctional organic electronic devices using the stimulus–response characteristics of LC materials.

     
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  5. The success of nematic liquid crystals in displays and optical applications is due to the combination of their optical uniaxiality, fluidity, elasticity, responsiveness to electric fields and controllable coupling of the molecular orientation at the interface with solid surfaces. The discovery of a polar nematic phase opens new possibilities for liquid crystal-based applications, but also requires a new study of how this phase couples with surfaces. Here we explore the surface alignment of the ferroelectric nematic phase by testing different rubbed and unrubbed substrates that differ in coupling strength and anchoring orientation and find a variety of behaviors – in terms of nematic orientation, topological defects and electric field response – that are specific to the ferroelectric nematic phase and can be understood as a consequence of the polar symmetry breaking. In particular, we show that by using rubbed polymer surfaces it is easy to produce cells with a planar polar preferential alignment and that cell electrostatics ( e.g. grounding the electrodes) has a remarkable effect on the overall homogeneity of the ferroelectric ordering. 
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  6. We show that surface interactions can vectorially structure the three-dimensional polarization field of a ferroelectric fluid. The contact between a ferroelectric nematic liquid crystal and a surface with in-plane polarity generates a preferred in-plane orientation of the polarization field at that interface. This is a route to the formation of fluid or glassy monodomains of high polarization without the need for electric field poling. For example, unidirectional buffing of polyimide films on planar surfaces to give quadrupolar in-plane anisotropy also induces macroscopic in-plane polar order at the surfaces, enabling the formation of a variety of azimuthal polar director structures in the cell interior, including uniform and twisted states. In a π-twist cell, obtained with antiparallel, unidirectional buffing on opposing surfaces, we demonstrate three distinct modes of ferroelectric nematic electro-optic response: intrinsic, viscosity-limited, field-induced molecular reorientation; field-induced motion of domain walls separating twisted states of opposite chirality; and propagation of polarization reorientation solitons from the cell plates to the cell center upon field reversal. Chirally doped ferroelectric nematics in antiparallel-rubbed cells produce Grandjean textures of helical twist that can be unwound via field-induced polar surface reorientation transitions. Fields required are in the 3-V/mm range, indicating an in-plane polar anchoring energy of w P ∼3 × 10 −3 J/m 2 . 
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  7. We report the experimental determination of the structure and response to applied electric field of the lower-temperature nematic phase of the previously reported calamitic compound 4-[(4-nitrophenoxy)carbonyl]phenyl2,4-dimethoxybenzoate (RM734). We exploit its electro-optics to visualize the appearance, in the absence of applied field, of a permanent electric polarization density, manifested as a spontaneously broken symmetry in distinct domains of opposite polar orientation. Polarization reversal is mediated by field-induced domain wall movement, making this phase ferroelectric, a 3D uniaxial nematic having a spontaneous, reorientable polarization locally parallel to the director. This polarization density saturates at a low temperature value of ∼6 µC/cm 2 , the largest ever measured for a fluid or glassy material. This polarization is comparable to that of solid state ferroelectrics and is close to the average value obtained by assuming perfect, polar alignment of molecular dipoles in the nematic. We find a host of spectacular optical and hydrodynamic effects driven by ultralow applied field (E ∼ 1 V/cm), produced by the coupling of the large polarization to nematic birefringence and flow. Electrostatic self-interaction of the polarization charge renders the transition from the nematic phase mean field-like and weakly first order and controls the director field structure of the ferroelectric phase. Atomistic molecular dynamics simulation reveals short-range polar molecular interactions that favor ferroelectric ordering, including a tendency for head-to-tail association into polar, chain-like assemblies having polar lateral correlations. These results indicate a significant potential for transformative, new nematic physics, chemistry, and applications based on the enhanced understanding, development, and exploitation of molecular electrostatic interaction. 
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