Oscillatory and excitable systems commonly exhibit formation of dynamic non-equilibrium patterns. For example, rotating spiral patterns are observed in biological, chemical, and physical systems ranging from organization of slime mold cells to Belousov-Zhabotinsky reactions, and to crystal growth from nuclei with screw dislocations. Here we describe spontaneous formation of spiral waves and a large variety of other dynamic patterns in anisotropic soft matter driven by low-intensity light. The unstructured ambient or microscope light illumination of thin liquid crystal films in contact with a self-assembled azobenzene monolayer causes spontaneous formation, rich spatial organization, and dynamics of twisted domains and topological solitons accompanied by the dynamic patterning of azobenzene group orientations within the monolayer. Linearly polarized incident light interacts with the twisted liquid crystalline domains, mimicking their dynamics and yielding patterns in the polarization state of transmitted light, which can be transformed to similar dynamic patterns in its intensity and interference color. This shows that the delicate light-soft-matter interaction can yield complex self-patterning of both. We uncover underpinning physical mechanisms and discuss potential uses.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics