Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Gina L Hoatson


Materials which flow like fluids, but possess anisotropic properties like molecular crystals, are called 'liquid crystals'. Studies of liquid crystals contribute to our understanding of how molecular orientation influences macroscopic properties. This thesis presents experimental and theoretical investigations of molecular order and dynamics in nematic liquid crystal systems. First, deuterium nuclear magnetic resonance is used to determine the degree of orientational order of both components of a liquid crystal mixture simultaneously. The temperature dependence of the four order parameters is interpreted using a newly developed mean field theory of nematic binary mixtures composed of biaxial molecules. Next, mean field theory is applied to predict the phase behavior of arbitrarily shaped nematogens. For single component liquid crystals, the four order parameters needed to quantify orientational order of biaxial molecules in a biaxial nematic phase are calculated as a function of temperature for both rod-like and plate-like liquid crystals. For binary mixtures, temperature-concentration phase diagrams for a variety of molecular shapes are calculated. These theoretical predictions suggest that binary mixtures of highly asymmetric molecules with opposite shape anisotrophies may display stable biaxial nematic phases. Last, deuterium nuclear magnetic spin relaxation rates are measured as a function of temperature to investigate the molecular motion of a liquid crystal and a liquid crystal binary mixture. These experimental results are interpreted using an anisotropic viscosity model of molecular reorientation. The temperature dependence of the correlation times for the molecular motions is examined and discussed. It is demonstrated that mixing probe molecules into a liquid crystal has a profound effect on the molecular motion of the liquid crystal.



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