Liquid Crystals, 2016, vol 43, 11, pp. 1693-1708
The lyotropic mixture of potassium laurate/decanol/water presenting only the uniaxial nematic calamitic phase was doped with one strong (potassium chloride, KCl) and 11 weak electrolytes with phenyl-rings (DL-mandelic acid, benzoic acid, DL-phenyllactic acid, phenylacetic acid, phenol and phenylmethanol) and with cyclohexyl-ring (RS-hexahydromandelic acid, cyclohexanecarboxylic acid, cyclohexaneacetic acid, cyclohexanol and cyclohexylmethanol), separately. We also chose two nonpolar dopant molecules, benzene and cyclohexane, for the comparison of them with weak electrolytes, since they are located in the hydrocarbon core of the micelle. The nematic phase sequences, in particular the presence of the biaxial nematic phase, were investigated as a function of the dopant molar concentration and temperature. The laser conoscopy and small-angle X-ray scattering techniques were used to characterise the different nematic phases. Weak electrolytes having –COOH group as polar part were found to be very effective in stabilising the three nematic phases (two uniaxial and a biaxial). Guest molecules with only the –OH group did not show any effect on the stabilisation of other nematic phases. The experimental results are interpreted considering the screening effect of the hydrophilic parts of the dopants on the repulsion between the polar heads of the main amphiphilic molecules at micelle surfaces. This process favours the increase of the more flat micellar surfaces of micelles, which triggers the orientational fluctuations responsible for the biaxial and discotic nematic phases.