Ordered Droplet Structures at the Liquid Crystal Surface and Elastic-Capillary Colloidal Interactions09/10/2004
We demonstrate a variety of ordered patterns, including hexagonal structures and chains, formed by colloidal particles (droplets) at the free surface of a nematic liquid crystal (LC). The surface placement introduces a new type of particle interaction as compared to particles entirely in the LC bulk. Namely, director deformations caused by the particles lead to distortions of the interface and thus to capillary attraction. The elastic-capillary coupling is strong enough to remain relevant even at the micron-scale when its buoyancy-capillary counterpart becomes irrelevant.