Multi-level chirality in liquid crystals formed by achiral molecules

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Abstract

Complex materials often exhibit a hierarchical structure with an intriguing mechanism responsible for the ‘propagation’ of order from the molecular to the nano- or micro-scale level. In particular, the chirality of biological molecules such as nucleic acids and amino acids is responsible for the helical structure of DNA and proteins, which in turn leads to the lack of mirror symmetry of macro-bio-objects. To fully understand mechanisms of cross-level order transfer there is an intensive search for simpler artificial structures exhibiting hierarchical arrangement. Here we present complex systems built of achiral molecules that show four levels of structural chirality: layer chirality, helicity of a basic repeating unit, mesoscopic helix and helical filaments. The structures are identified by a combination of hard and soft x-ray diffraction measurements, optical studies and theoretical modelling. Similarly to many biological systems, the studied materials exhibit a coupling between chirality at different levels.

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Salamończyk, M., Vaupotič, N., Pociecha, D., Walker, R., Storey, J. M. D., Imrie, C. T., … Gorecka, E. (2019). Multi-level chirality in liquid crystals formed by achiral molecules. Nature Communications, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-09862-y

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