Computer simulations of liquid crystals
Molecular simulations performed on modern computers provide a powerful tool for the investigation of both static and dynamic properties of liquid crystals. In this thesis several properties of liquid crystal mesogens have been investigated using state-of-the-art Monte Carlo (MC) and molecular dynamics (MD) simulation techniques. The helical twisting power, βm, determines the pitch of the chiral nematic phase produced when a nematic liquid crystal is doped with a low concentration of chiral solute molecules. A new simulation technique that allows the prediction of both the sign and the magnitude of βm is described. The method employs fully atomistic MC simulations of a chiral dopant molecule in the presence of a twisted nematic solvent composed of Gay-Berne particles. Eighteen different chiral dopant molecules were examined and in all cases the results were in good agreement with existing experimental data. The Kirkwood correlation factor, g(_1), has been evaluated for the molecules PCH5, PCH5-C1, me5NF and GGP5C1 using MD simulations in the pre-transitional region of the isotropic phase. The calculations employed an all-atom force field, which was developed specifically for liquid crystal molecules. PCH5 and meSNF were seen to favour anti-parallel dipole alignment whereas, PCH5-C1 and GGP5C1 preferred a parallel arrangement of the molecular dipoles. With the exception of GGP5C1, the simulations gave g(_1) values that were in accordance with existing experimental dielectric measurements. Detailed analysis of the MD trajectories showed that certain molecular pair configurations were preferred in the bulk and indicated which molecular groups were responsible for the stabilization of these configurations. Equilibrium molecular dynamics simulations were carried out in order to evaluate the rotational viscosity coefficient, γ(_1), for a Gay-Berne mesogen using two independent analysis techniques. The methods gave consistent results, which were comparable to experimental data for real mesogens of similar shape and size.