Abstract: An intermediate nematic phase is proposed for the interpretation of recent experimental results on phase biaxiality in bent-core nematic liquid crystals. The phase is macroscopically uniaxial but has microscopic biaxial, and possibly polar, domains. Under the action of an electric field, the phase acquires macroscopic biaxial ordering resulting from the collective alignment of the domains. A phenomenological theory is developed for the molecular order in this phase and for its transitions to purely uniaxial and to spontaneously biaxial nematic phases.
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