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Article

Landau theory for smectic-A–hexatic-B coexistence in smectic films

We explain theoretical peculiarities of the smectic-A–hexatic-B equilibrium phase coexistence in a finite-temperature range recently observed experimentally in free-standing smectic films [I. A. Zaluzhnyy et al., Phys. Rev. E 98, 052703 (2018)]. We quantitatively describe this unexpected phenomenon within Landau phase transitions theory assuming that the film state is close to a tricritical point. We found that the surface hexatic order diminishes the phase coexistence range as the film thickness decreases, shrinking it to zero at some minimal film thickness Lc, of the order of a few hexatic correlation length. We established universal laws for the temperature width of the phase coexistence range in terms of the reduced variables. Our theory is in agreement with the existing experimental data.