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Phase sensitive molecular dynamics of self-assembly glycolipid thin films: A dielectric spectroscopy investigation
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Glycolipid, found commonly in membranes, is also a liquid crystal material which can self-assemble without the presence of a solvent. Here, the dielectric and conductivity properties of three synthetic glycolipid thin films in different thermotropic liquid crystal phases were investigated over a frequency and temperature range of (10−2–106 Hz) and (303–463 K), respectively. The observed relaxation processes distinguish between the different phases (smectic A, columnar/hexagonal, and bicontinuous cubic Q) and the glycolipid molecular structures. Large dielectric responses were observed in the columnar and bicontinuous cubic phases of the longer branched alkyl chain glycolipids. Glycolipids with the shortest branched alkyl chain experience the most restricted self-assembly dynamic process over the broad temperature range studied compared to the longer ones. A high frequency dielectric absorption (Process I) was observed in all samples. This is related to the dynamics of the hydrogen bond network from the sugar group. An additional low-frequency mechanism (Process II) with a large dielectric strength was observed due to the internal dynamics of the self-assembly organization. Phase sensitive domain heterogeneity in the bicontinuous cubic phase was related to the diffusion of charge carriers. The microscopic features of charge hopping were modelled using the random walk scheme, and two charge carrier hopping lengths were estimated for two glycolipid systems. For Process I, the hopping length is comparable to the hydrogen bond and is related to the dynamics of the hydrogen bond network. Additionally, that for Process II is comparable to the bilayer spacing, hence confirming that this low-frequency mechanism is associated with the internal dynamics within the phase.
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