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C. F. Soon1, M. Youseffi2, N. Blagden1, M.C.T. Denyer1 of Pharmacy, University of Bradford, BD7 1DP, United Kingdom 2School of Engineering, Design and Technology-Medical Engineering, University of Bradford, BD7 1DP, United Kingdom
Liquid crystals are the fourth phase of matter and have the ability to splay, twist and bend. Because of these switchable physical properties, they have been used in the liquid crystal display industry for the past 30-40 years. The application of liquid crystals in biology has just began to attract attention. Cholesteryl ester liquid crystals (CELCs)have shown biocompatilility and can support cell adhesion under ligands free conditions (CF Soon et al, 2009a). Cholesteryl ester liquid crystals without the functionality of the extracellular matrix proteins (ECM) ruled out the controversy on whether cells adhesions to the substrate were mediated by the density or types of adhesion proteins. Dynamic interactions of cells with liquid crystals formed distinct localised deformation on the liquid crystal film over a few days indicated the flexibility and elasticity of the liquid crystals (CF Soon et al, 2009b). Therefore, it is crucial to further characterise the rheology of this material and investigate the effects of shear rate and strain so that the force transducing properties of the CELCs can be characterised.
Materials and Methods
The preparation of the cholesteryl ester liquid crystals was as reported in (CF Soon, 2009a). To understand the visco-elastic properties, amplitude and frequency sweep test were performed using an Anton Paar Rheoplus GmbH strain-controlled rheometer. Maintaining at 370C, the material were shear at a gap of 0.5mm between a stationary heated plate and a rotating 22.5mm diameter disc. Frequency sweep test was performed at a constant 5% strain amplitude over a shear rate of 0.01 to 10s-1, and the complex viscosity, storage and the loss moduli were determined. For the amplitude sweep test, the test material were sheared from 0-100% strain and repeated at various shear rate of 0.01 to 10s-1.
Results and Discussion
Frequency Sweep Test From the frequency sweep test result (Figure 1), CELC has shown linear visco-elastic behavior at lower shear rate (below 1s-1) where the storage modulus was higher than loss modulus at 5% strain. When the storage modulus crossed over beyond 10s-1, shear thinning were observed with an exponential drop in viscosity. This suggested the shear rate applied on the liquid crystals should not exceed 10s-1. Lines drawn to estimate the elastic modulus of the liquid crystals from the stress-strain scatter plots.
Figure 2. Stress-strain curve of cholesteryl ester liquid crystal and the effects of shear rates. The result in the stress-strain curve at various angular frequency (0.01s-1, 0.1s-1, 1s-1 and 10s-1) of cholesteryl ester liquid crystal approximated a linear elastic behaviour up to 100% strain where stress is almost linearly proportional to strain (γ). For visco-elastic liquid crystals, the modulus of elasticity is dependent on angular frequency with the slope of the lines decreasing as the angular frequency was stepped down (Figure 2). Hence, the linear regime is similar to the rubber elasticity model and this model is applicable to the cholesteric system deformation at low strain and frequency sweep (Ramos et al. 2002). Very few studies on the rheology of cholesteric liquid crystal have been carried out in the past (Zapotocky et al. 1999; Ramos et al. 2002; Yada et al. 2003). Those that have been studied are also varied in terms of the preparation and materials used. However, the closest approximation of elastic modulus for cholesteric liquid crystal at low frequencies were calculated at 0.1 dyne/cm2 or equivalent to 1 x 10-2Pa (Zapotocky et al. 1999). From our experimental result, the elastic modulus of the cholesteryl liquid crystals are angular frequency dependent and we obtained ~1.3 x10-3Pa at 0.01s-1. As the angular frequency was stepwise decreased from 10s-1 to 0.01s-1, the viscous behavior of the liquid crystals were changed over to elastic behavior when storage modulus overtook the loss modulus (Figure 3) at strain below 20% (Figure 3D) . Below 20% of strain, the material showed linear elastic properties (Figure 3D) which is essential for cells mechanic studies.
Figure 1. Frequency sweep test result for cholesteryl ester liquid crystals.
Amplitude Sweep Test
Figure 3. Effects of shear rate (angular frequency) to the storage and loss modulus with respect to strain on the liquid crystals.
Under shear stress, cholesteryl ester liquid crystals exhibited linear elastic behavior at angular frequency below 1s-1 and 20% strain. At higher angular frequencies, the material behaves as a pseudo-plastic and this suggested that it is a weak gel. However, cells move at relatively low speeds, thus the result from the low angular frequencies are more representative of the forces exerted by cells on the CELCs. The determining of these rheological properties at low frequencies will therefore enabled the forces exerted by cells on CELCs to be quantified.
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