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Much is known about the Freedericksz transition induced by uniform electric and magnetic fields in nematic liquid crystals. In this work, we are interested in the effects of a spatially varying field on the transition. Specifically, we study the director configuration in a homeotropic nematic cell in a spatially varying magnetic field with cylindrical symmetry. The experiment is conducted with a ring magnet which provides a radial magnetic field with magnitude monotonically decreasing to zero at the center. The nematic cell is positioned in the central plane of the ring, with the cell normal parallel to the ring normal. Interference patterns of the nematic cell between crossed polarizers were observed. The director configuration in the nematic cell is modeled with Frank–Oseen theory, and the computed interference pattern from the simulated director field are compared with experiment. We conclude that if the magnetic field strength varies with position in the plane of the cell, there is no Freedericksz transition.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.