Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Physics

First Advisor

Ivan Smalyukh

Second Advisor

Andrew Hess

Abstract

The research presented in this thesis investigates the elastic director field interactions between optical, spatial solitons and defect structures in frustrated chiral nematic liquid crystals. I characterize experimentally the rich elastic interactions between torons, particle-like localized director field configurations with non-trivial topology, and spatial, optical solitons, which have been previously dubbed nematicons. By exploitation of the waveguide regime for the generation of stable thresholdless nematicons via the reorientational nonlinearity present in thermotropic liquid crystals, I characterize the elastic potential energy surrounding a stationary nematicon and a mobile toron via measurement of toron displacement as a function of time. I compare the resultant elastic potential energy contour map with direct optical characterization of the integrated elastic director perturbations within the nematicon. With knowledge of the underlying nematicon structure, I show that nematicon beam deflection from spatially fixed torons is possible.

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