Fluorescence confocal polarizing microscopy: Three-dimensional imaging of the director
Much of the modern understanding of orientational order in liquid crystals (LCs) is based on polarizing microscopy (PM). A PM image bears only two-dimensional (2D) information, integrating the 3D pattern of optical birefringence over the path of light. Recently, we proposed a technique to image 3D director patterns by fluorescence confocal polarizing microscopy (FCPM). The technique employs the property of LC to orient the fluorescent dye molecules of anisometric shape, added in small quantities to the LC. In LC, smooth director deformations do not alter mass density of the material. Thus the density of dye is also uniform across the sample, except, perhaps, near the surfaces or at the cores of topological defects. In polarized light, the measured fluorescence signal is determined by the spatial orientation of the molecules rather than by dye concentration (as in regular biological samples stained with tissue-specific dyes). The contrast is enhanced when both excitation and detection of fluorescence light are performed in polarized light. This short review describes the essence of FCPM technique and illustrates some of its applications, including imaging of Frederiks electric-field induced effect in a nematic LC and defects such as dislocations in cholesteric LCs.