The aqueous self-assembly behavior of the dyes Quinaldine red acetate and Pyronin Y in a wide range of concentrations is reported here for the first time. 1H NMR spectroscopy, polarized-light optical microscopy, and small and wide X-ray scattering were used to get insight into molecular interactions, phase boundaries and aggregate structure. Quinaldine red acetate and Pyronin Y self-organize into unimolecular stacks driven by attractive aromatic interactions. At high concentrations, spatial correlation among the molecular stacks gives rise to nematic liquid crystals in both systems. Quinaldine red acetate additionally produces a rare chromonic O phase built of columnar aggregates with anisotropic cross-section ordered in a rectangular lattice. The O phase changes into a columnar lamellar structure as a result of a temperature-induced phase transition. Results open the possibility of finding chromonic liquid crystals in other commercially available dyes with a similar molecular structure. This would eventually expand the availability of these unique soft materials and thus introduce new applications for marketed dyes.
Keywords: Ganesha, Liquid crystals