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Something Old, Something New
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Flying-seed-like liquid crystals

Kazuchika Ohta, Tomoyuki Shibuya and Masahiro Ando

Abstract:

In 1911, Vorlärnder reported liquid-crystalline properties of unique flying-seed-like alkali metal carboxylates. They are neither rod-like nor disk-like. Moreover, they have neither a rigid core nor flexible long chains. The molecular shapes are totally different from about 93000 general liquid crystalline compounds. These flying-seed-like liquid crystals have been forgotten for about 100 years. We revealed and established for the first time from precise microscopic observations and temperature-dependent X-ray diffraction studies that sodium diphenylacetate exhibits a hexagonal columnar mesophase, and that potassium diethylacetate and potassium dimethylacetate exhibit a smectic A mesophase. These old and new flying-seed-like liquid crystals will become a novel field of science.

Introduction:

In the East, there is a proverb called Wen Gu Zhi Xin (On Ko Chi Shin). This implies that to investigate old things is to find new things. In 1888, the first liquid crystals were discovered by Reinitzer. Since then people believed for many years that liquid crystalline compounds were rod-like molecules. In 1977, Chandrasekhar et al. discovered that disk-like molecules also show liquid crystalline properties. Accordingly, in recent years people believe that liquid crystalline molecules are rod-like as chopsticks or disk-like as dishes. Actually, there are few exceptions. To date, about 93000 liquid crystalline compounds have bee reported. Generally, each of the liquid crystalline molecules consists of a strip-like or disk-like core in the centre as the rigid part and two or more than six molten long alkyl chains in the surroundings as the soft part.



Recently we noticed that about 100 years ago, in 1911, Vorländer reported some liquid crystalline compounds which are totally out of the general category mentioned above. This liquid crystalline compound has neither a rigid core nor a flexible long alkyl chain. Moreover, the molecular shape is neither rod-like nor disk-like but flying-seed-like. The photograph shows maple seeds which are abundantly seen in Shinshu University Ueda Campus from autumn to winter. They blow off from the branches and fly by rotating. Various kinds of flying seeds are seen world-wide and are very familiar to many people. We wondered whether such unique-shaped molecules really exhibit liquid crystalline properties, and what type of mesophases they show.

In the past 100 years, these flying-seed-like liquid crystals have seldom or never been investigated. As far as we know, there have been only three papers which were reported by Demus et al. and Sanesi et al. about 30 years ago.

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Conclusions:

Thus, we have established for the first time from temperature-dependent X-ray diffraction studies that sodium diphenylacetate (A2-Na) exhibits a hexagonal columnar mesophase (Colh), and that both potassium diethylacetate (B2-K) and potassium dimethylacetate (C2-K) exhibit a smectic A mesophase. These salts are flying-seed-like and completely different from general molecular shapes of all the conventional liquid crystalline materials, because their molecular shapes are neither rod-like nor disk-like, and because they have neither flexible long chains nor a rigid flat core. We believe that these old and new flying-seed-like mesogens will become a novel field of science.

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