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Blue-phase templated fabrication of three-dimensional nanostructures for photonic applications

Abstract

A promising approach to the fabrication of materials with nanoscale features is the transfer of liquid-crystalline structure to polymers1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11. However, this has not been achieved in systems with full three-dimensional periodicity. Here we demonstrate the fabrication of self-assembled three-dimensional nanostructures by polymer templating blue phase I, a chiral liquid crystal with cubic symmetry. Blue phase I was photopolymerized and the remaining liquid crystal removed to create a porous free-standing cast, which retains the chiral three-dimensional structure of the blue phase, yet contains no chiral additive molecules. The cast may in turn be used as a hard template for the fabrication of new materials. By refilling the cast with an achiral nematic liquid crystal, we created templated blue phases that have unprecedented thermal stability in the range −125 to 125 °C, and that act as both mirrorless lasers and switchable electro-optic devices. Blue-phase templated materials will facilitate advances in device architectures for photonics applications in particular.

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Figure 1: Formation of the 3D nanostructured polymer.
Figure 2: Optical characterization.
Figure 3: Thermal stability of the templated BP.
Figure 4: Band-edge lasing from a templated BP.

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Acknowledgements

This work was carried out under the COSMOS project, which is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council UK (grants EP/D04894X/1 and EP/H046658/1). We thank H. Hasebe (Dainippon Ink & Chemicals, Japan) for supplying the reactive mesogen UCL-11-K1. S.S.C. acknowledges LG Display for a studentship. S.M.M. acknowledges The Royal Society for financial support.

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Contributions

F.C. conceived the idea. F.C., F.V.D. and S.S.C. developed the fabrication process. F.C. and F.V.D. carried out the microscopy and spectroscopy experiments. F.C. and S.M.M. carried out the Kossel diffraction experiment. S.M.M. and F.C. carried out the lasing experiment. F.C., D-H.K. and D.J.G. characterized the templated structures. M.M.Q. and S.N. synthesized the bimesogenic materials. F.C., P.J.W.H. and F.V.D. fabricated the glass cells. F.C. and F.V.D. wrote the paper in collaboration with all the authors. R.H.F. was a collaborator on the COSMOS project. H.J.C. informed and directed the research.

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Correspondence to H. J. Coles.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Castles, F., Day, F., Morris, S. et al. Blue-phase templated fabrication of three-dimensional nanostructures for photonic applications. Nature Mater 11, 599–603 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nmat3330

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