Ordering dynamics of blue phases entails kinetic stabilization of amorphous networks

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The cubic blue phases of liquid crystals are fascinating and technologically promising examples of hierarchically structured soft materials, comprising ordered networks of defect lines (disclinations) within a liquid crystalline matrix. We present large-scale simulations of their domain growth, starting from a blue phase nucleus within a supercooled isotropic or cholesteric background. The nucleated phase is thermodynamically stable; one expects its slow orderly growth, creating a bulk cubic phase. Instead, we find that the strong propensity to form disclinations drives the rapid disorderly growth of a metastable amorphous defect network. During this process, the original nucleus is destroyed; reemergence of the stable phase may therefore require a second nucleation step. Our findings suggest that blue phases exhibit hierarchical behavior in their ordering dynamics, to match the hierarchy in their structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13212-13215
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number30
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2010


  • kinetic arrest
  • complex fluids


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