We analyze modulated phases in liquid crystals, using the concept of four fundamental modes of director deformation: twist, bend, splay, and a fourth mode related to saddle-splay [1,2]. Each mode is coupled to a specific type of molecular order: chirality, polarization perpendicular and parallel to the director, and octupolar order. When the liquid crystal develops one type of spontaneous order, the ideal local structure becomes nonuniform, with the corresponding director deformation. In general, the ideal local structure is frustrated; it cannot fill space. As a result, the liquid crystal must form a complex global phase, which may have a combination of deformation modes, and may have a periodic array of defects. Thus, the concept of an ideal local structure under geometric frustration provides a unified framework to understand the wide variety of modulated phases .
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