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We report the results of Monte Carlo simulations of the Lebwohl-Lasher model of nematic liquid crystals confined to cylindrical cavities with homeotropic anchoring. We show that the ratio of the bulk to surface couplings is not in general equal to the corresponding parameter K/W used in elastic theory (where K is the Frank elastic constant in the one-constant approximation and W is the surface anchoring strength). By measuring the temperature dependence of K/W (which is equivalent to the surface extrapolation length) we are able to reconcile the results of our simulations as well as others with the predictions of elastic theory. We find that the rate at which we cool the system from the isotropic to nematic phase plays a crucial role in the development of the final director structure, because of a large free energy barrier separating different director structures as well as the temperature dependence of K/W. With a suitably fast cooling rate we are able to keep the system out of a metastable planar state and form an escaped radial structure for large enough systems. ©2000 The American Physical Society.


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