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A Self-Quenched Defect Glass in a Colloid-Nematic Liquid Crystal Composite

Wilson Poon School of Physics & Astronomy, The University of Edinburgh

Colloidal particles immersed in liquid crystals frustrate orientational order and generate disclinations. We have discovered a new class of soft solids, with shear moduli up to 10,000 pascals, containing high concentrations of colloidal particles (volume fraction ≳ 20%) directly dispersed into a nematic liquid crystal. Confocal microscopy and computer simulations show that the mechanical strength derives from a percolated network of disclinations entangled with the particles in three dimensions. Such a “self-quenched glass” of defect lines and particles can be considered a self-organized analog of the “vortex glass” state in type II superconductors.