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Contact Topology and the Cholesteric Landscape

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DNMW03 - Optimal design of soft matter - including a celebration of Women in Materials Science (WMS)

Cholesterics, chiral liquid crystals, typically exhibit a large number of metastable states for a given geometry. This is both a blessing and a curse, it affords great potential for the creation of new devices but can also mean that tight control of a structure can be difficult to achieve. In this talk we will discuss why it is that the tendency of cholesterics to twist means that they have a complex energy landscape. Our principle tools will be drawn from the field of contact topology. By describing cholesterics as contact structures we will show that non-vanishing twist implies conservation of the layer structure in cholesteric liquid crystals. This characterises the morphological richness of these systems, leads to a number of additional topological invariants for cholesteric textures that are not captured by traditional descriptions, and gives a geometric characterisation of cholesteric dynamics in any context, including active systems, those in confined geometries or under the influence of an external field.

This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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