, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 341-347
Date: 09 Feb 2007

Stability of the director profile of a nematic liquid crystal around a spherical particle under an external field

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We study numerically the effect of an external magnetic or electric field on the director profiles of a nematic liquid crystal around a spherical particle. We pay particular attention to the stability of a hyperbolic hedgehog defect accompanying the particle, which transforms into a Saturn-ring defect encircling the particle under a sufficiently strong external field. We focus on the particle size dependence of the two important threshold field strengths: the “thermodynamic-transition” field strength H1 at which the hedgehog and the Saturn-ring configurations have the equal free energy, and the critical field strength H2 at which the hedgehog loses its (meta)stability. Our numerical results demonstrate that while H1 is non-monotonically dependent on the particle radius R0, H2 monotonically increases with R0 and the dependence of H2 is weak for large R0. The non-monotonic dependence of H1 on R0 can be explained by comparing the energies of the two configurations and assuming the dependence of those energies on a rescaled field. A crude argument of the energetics of a hyperbolic hedgehog defect under an external field shows that for an asymptotically large R0 the critical field strength is independent of R0, which agrees with our numerical finding.