Recognition of publication on new nematic liquid crystal as milestone paper

November 07, 2018

The year 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of Physical Review E. To celebrate the journal’s legacy, the Editorial Board and the journal’s editors nominated 25 milestone articles, including one from each calendar year from 1993 through 2017 and spanning all major subject-areas covered by the journal. Among those articles is one co-authored by Herbert Zimmermann, a chemical engineer in the Department of Biomolecular Mechanisms at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research. This article was published in 2011 and is being honoured as a milestone seven years later. The articles will be unveiled in chronological order and will be featured on the journal’s website.

The paper by Herbert Zimmermann and the research it represents are special in many respects. There are 13 authors from six research groups around Europe, with expertise in a wide range of techniques. The work contributing to it was carried out over a number of years in different collaborations. Herbert Zimmermann’s direct partner in this cooperation was Prof. Geoffrey Luckhurst (University of Southampton). “The story behind this ground-breaking research is one of friendly and constructive collaboration between different research groups in Europe. It is essential that this spirit is preserved and enhanced in the current turbulent political times”, says David Dunmur, another co-author of the paper. Like Herbert Zimmermann and indeed all the authors, he was particularly excited about the news.

The striped and polygonal optical textures of a twist-bend nematic phase.

The article is entitled ‘Phase behavior and properties of the liquid-crystal dimer 1″,7″-bis(4-cyanobiphenyl-4′-yl) heptane: a twist-bend nematic liquid crystal’. At the time, properties of this new nematic phase were surprising and exciting. For example, the phase has a helical structure even though the constituent molecules are not chiral, unlike the familiar cholesteric phase. In addition, the pitch of the twist-bend nematic phase has proved to be extremely small, again unlike that in the cholesteric phase. The phase structure is also doubly degenerate, with helical domains twisting both to the left and to the right. Since 2011, much has been learnt about this new nematic liquid crystal and it seems certain that much more remains.


About Physical Review E: The journal covers statistical, nonlinear, biological and soft matter physics.

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