Origin of the echo phenomenon upon flow reversal in low molecular weight nematic liquid crystals

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We analyse the transient shear stress response in tumbling nematic liquid crystals upon flow reversal within the framework of Leslie-Ericksen theory. In particular, we focus our attention on the echo phenomenon, i. e. the progressive re-emergence, upon flow reversal, of the transient oscillations observed at the flow start-up in low molecular weight (LMW) liquid crystals. We show that it is possible to interpret this phenomenon if the director distribution that develops after start-up contains a reversible and an irreversible component. In short, the formation of an echo results from the reversible component while the irreversible component attenuates its amplitude. Within this model, the relative proportion of reversible and irreversible contributions to the total director distribution determines the magnitude of the echo and its rate of decay with the increasing of elapsed time between start-up and flow reversal. The model proposed in this paper is fully analytical; in particular, we give an analytical expression for the intensity of the echo. This model is in good agreement with published experimental data for the MSHMA/5CB nematic mixture (Gu et al. J Rheol 37:985-1001, 1993; Gu and Jamieson, Macromolecules 27:337-347, 1994). We end this paper with a brief discussion contrasting the reappearance of the oscillations in liquid crystal polymers and surfactants immediately after the flow reversal, with the observation of the echo phenomenon around t = 2t R in LMW liquid crystals, where t R is the time interval between the start-up and the reversal of the flow.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)891-908
Number of pages18
JournalRheologica Acta
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


  • Echo
  • Flow reversal
  • Nematic liquid crystal
  • Transient stress response
  • Tumbling


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