Chiral Symmetry Breaking by Spatial Confinement in Tactoidal Droplets of Lyotropic Chromonic Liquid Crystals03/29/2011
In many colloidal systems, an orientationally ordered nematic (N) phase emerges fromthe isotropic (I) melt in the form of spindle-like birefringent tactoids. In cases studied so far, the tactoids always reveal a mirror-symmetric nonchiral structure, sometimes even when the building units are chiral. We report on chiral symmetry breaking in the nematic tactoids formed in molecularly nonchiral polymer-crowded aqueous solutions of low-molecular weight disodium cromoglycate. The parity is broken by twisted packing of self-assembled molecular aggregates within the tactoids as manifested by the observed optical activity. Fluorescent confocal microscopy reveals that the chiral N tactoids are located at the boundaries of cells. We explain the chirality induction as a replacement of energetically costly splay packing of the aggregates within the curved bipolar tactoidal shape with twisted packing. The effect represents a simple pathway of macroscopic chirality induction in an organic system with no molecular chirality, as the only requirements are orientational order and curved shape of confinement.