A moving mesh method for modelling defects in nematic liquid crystals

Craig S. MacDonald, John A. MacKenzie, Alison Ramage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
35 Downloads (Pure)


The properties of liquid crystals can be modelled using an order parameter which describes the variability of the local orientation of rod-like molecules. Defects in the director field can arise due to external factors such as applied electric or magnetic fields, or the constraining geometry of the cell containing the liquid crystal material. Understanding the formation and dynamics of defects is important in the design and control of liquid crystal devices, and poses significant challenges for numerical modelling. In this paper we consider the numerical solution of a Q-tensor model of a nematic liquid crystal, where defects arise through rapid changes in the Q-tensor over a very small physical region in relation to the dimensions of the liquid crystal device. The efficient solution of the resulting six coupled partial differential equations is achieved using a finite element based adaptive moving mesh approach, where an unstructured triangular mesh is adapted towards high activity regions, including those around defects. Spatial convergence studies are presented using a stationary defect as a model test case, and the adaptive method is shown to be optimally convergent using quadratic triangular finite elements. The full effectiveness of the method is then demonstrated using a challenging two-dimensional dynamic Pi-cell problem involving the creation, movement, and annihilation of defects.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100065
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Computational Physics: X
Early online date17 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2020


  • nematic liquid crystals
  • adaptive moving meshes
  • Q-tensor model
  • defects


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