Condensation of the self-assembled lyotropic chromonic liquid crystal sunset yellow in aqueous solutions crowded with poly(ethylene)glycol and doped with salt

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lyotropic chromonic liquid crystals, condensation, salt




We use optical and fluorescence microscopy,densitometry, cryo-transmission electron microscopy (cryo-TEM), spectroscopy, and synchrotron X-ray scattering to study the phase behavior of the reversible self-assembled chromonic aggregates of an anionic dye Sunset Yellow (SSY) in aqueous solutions crowded with an electrically neutral polymer polyethylene glycol (PEG) and doped with the salt NaCl. PEG causes the isotropic SSY solutions to condense into a liquid-crystalline region with a high concentration of SSY aggregates, coexisting with a PEG-rich isotropic (I) region. PEG added to the homogeneous nematic (N) phase causes separation into the coexisting N and I domains; the SSY concentration in the N domains is higher than the original concentration of PEG-free N phase. Finally, addition of PEG to the highly concentrated homogeneousNphase causes separation into the coexisting columnar hexagonal (C) phase and I phase. This behavior can be qualitatively explained by the depletion (excluded volume) effects that act at two different levels: at the level of aggregate assembly from monomers and short aggregates and at the level of interaggregate packing. We also show a strong effect of amonovalent salt NaCl on phase diagrams that is different for high and low concentrations of SSY. Upon the addition of salt, dilute I solutions of SSY show appearance of the condensed N domains, but the highly concentrated C phase transforms into a coexisting I and N domains. We suggest that the salt-induced screening of electric charges at the surface of chomonic aggregates leads to two different effects: (a) increase of the scission energy and the contour length of aggregates and (b) decrease of the persistence length of SSY aggregates.