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Nematic Phases

Here is a sketch of the simplest liquid crystal phase, the nematic liquid crystal. There is a unique preferred direction: the molecular orientations are distributed around it. Although there may be some short-range positional order, there is no long-range order and the molecules can diffuse freely around.

The preferred direction is called the director. The molecular orientations may be highly ordered, i.e. all very close to the director, or less ordered; this is measured by the order parameter which takes values between zero and unity.

Nematic Phase