The paper combines simulations, experiments and theory to understand how a patterned surface can be used to control the alignment of a nematic liquid crystal. The surface interaction is characterized by two parameters: a preferred molecular orientation, called the easy axis, and the energy cost of rotating the alignment away from the preferred angle, known as the anchoring energy. Patterned surfaces allow control of these parameters, where the values depend on the design features of the pattern. Optimal performance of display devices requires tuning these parameters, so these surfaces offer the possibility of new types and better performing digital display.
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