Morphology of nematic and smectic vesicles

Xiangjun Xing, Homin Shin, Mark J. Bowick, Zhenwei Yao, Lin Jia, Min Hui Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Recent experiments on vesicles formed from block copolymers with liquid-crystalline side chains reveal a rich variety of vesicle morphologies. The additional internal order ("structure") developed by these self-assembled block copolymer vesicles can lead to significantly deformed vesicles as a result of the delicate interplay between two-dimensional ordering and vesicle shape. The inevitable topological defects in structured vesicles of spherical topology also play an essential role in controlling the final vesicle morphology. Here we develop a minimal theoretical model for the morphology of the membrane structure with internal nematic/ smectic order. Using both analytic and numerical approaches, we show that the possible low free energy morphologies include nano-size cylindrical micelles (nano-fibers), faceted tetrahedral vesicles, and ellipsoidal vesicles, as well as cylindrical vesicles. The tetrahedral vesicle is a particularly fascinating example of a faceted liquid-crystalline membrane. Faceted liquid vesicles may lead to the design of supramolecular structures with tetrahedral symmetry and new classes of nano-carriers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5202-5206
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 3 2012


  • Amphiphilic block copolymers
  • Bending energy
  • Frank free energy
  • Liquid crystalline polymers
  • Self-assembled bilayer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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