Smectic liquid crystals are charcterized by layers that have a preferred uniform spacing and vanishing curvature in their ground state. Dislocations in the smectics play an important role in phase nucleation, layer reorientation, and dynamics. Typically modeled as possessing one line singularity, the layer structure of a dislocation leads to a diverging compression strain as one approaches the defect center, suggesting a large, elastically determined melted core. However, it has been observed that for large charge dislocations, the defect breaks up into two disclinations [C. E. Williams, Philos. Mag. 32, 313 (1975)]. Here we investigate the topology of the composite core. Because the smectic cannot twist, transformations between different disclination geometries are highly constrained. We demonstrate the geometric route between them and show that despite enjoying precisely the topological rules of the three-dimensional nematic, the additional structure of line disclinations in three-dimensional smectics localizes transitions to higher-order point singularities.
Bibliographical note5 pages, 3 figures