Eur. Phys. J. E 22, 117 (2007)

The role of Frank elasticity in cholesteric elastomers

Werner Stille1, Jürgen Schmidtke2

1Physikalisches Institut, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Hermann-Herder-Str. 3, 79104 Freiburg, Germany

2Institut für Makromolekulare Chemie, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Stefan-Meier-Str. 31, 79104 Freiburg, Germany


The effect of Frank elasticity on deformations of cholesteric elastomers by mechanical stress applied perpendicular to the helix axis is studied by numerical minimization of the free energy. Above a critical strain, a solution with an only oscillating director is found to be stable in comparison to a distorted helix. At the critical strain, the contractions perpendicular to stress change discontinuously. The critical strain is found to increase with increasing Frank elasticity contribution to the free energy density, and to diverge when the conformation anisotropy of the polymer backbone vanishes. The results are compared with recent experiments which indicated that, in case of weak conformation anisotropies, the Frank elasticity contribution to the free energy cannot be neglected.