Non-uniformities in polymer/liquid crystal mixtures II. Nematic nucleation.

The European physical journal. E, Soft matter

PubMedID: 15010934

Matsuyama A, Evans RM, Cates ME. Non-uniformities in polymer/liquid crystal mixtures II. Nematic nucleation. Eur Phys J E Soft Matter. 2002;9(1):89-95.
We theoretically model the nucleation of nematic droplets during phase ordering in mixtures of a flexible polymer and a low-molecular-weight liquid crystal. By appealing to classical nucleation theory (CNT), we calculate the energy barrier to nucleation and the size of a critical nucleus. We study the influence of a metastable intermediate phase on the nucleation of the nematic. Below a triple point in the phase diagram, there are two distinct mechanisms for the formation of a nematic nucleus: 1) direct nucleation from the isotropic phase and 2) nucleation via a precursor metastable isotropic phase. We calculate the crossover concentration as a function of temperature, delineating the regions of the phase diagram in which each mechanism prevails. In the latter case, the presence of a hidden metastable isotropic-isotropic binodal may either promote or delay the nucleation of a nematic phase.