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Journal of Applied Physics

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The effect of surface alignment on the achievement of analog ("V"-shaped) electric field control of director rotation in SmC* liquid crystal devices is investigated experimentally and through numerical modeling. Ferroelectric SmC* liquid crystals are intrinsically analog and thresholdless, i.e. the director can be rotated freely around the tilt cone. Whether or not a SmC* liquid crystal cell exhibits thresholdless switching depends strongly on the influence of the cell's alignment layers, on the magnitude of the liquid crystal's spontaneous polarization, and on whether smectic layers adopt a bookshelf or chevron configuration. To study the effect of the surface alignment layers, we have exploited a technique for the vertical (bookshelf) alignment of the smectic layers that does not depend on surface anisotropy. The alignment technique allows an experimental study of the influence of surfaces spanning a wide range of pretilt angles, azimuthal and zenithal anchoring energies. This technique is used to study the effect of surfaces on the threshold behavior of director rotation in SmC* materials under the influence of an electric field. The alignment technique also allowed us to use a high-P(S) liquid crystal material having an I-A-C phase sequence and reduced layer shrinkage thought to be well suited to thresholdless switching. We show that the alignment layer has a strong effect, and that excellent analog response can be achieved for the case of alignment layers which promote homeotropic director orientation. We further model and discuss the potential effect of a thin layer of nematic at the surface and the possibility of gliding of the easy axis during switching. (C) 2011 American Institute of Physics. [doi:10.1063/1.3552297]


Copyright 2011 American Institute of Physics. This article may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the American Institute of Physics. The following article appeared in J. Appl. Phys. 109, 054108 (2011) and may be found at

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