Photomechanics: directed bending of a polymer film by light

Nature. 2003 Sep 11;425(6954):145. doi: 10.1038/425145a.


Polymer solutions and solids that contain light-sensitive molecules can undergo photo-contraction, whereby light energy is converted into mechanical energy. Here we show that a single film of a liquid-crystal network containing an azobenzene chromophore can be repeatedly and precisely bent along any chosen direction by using linearly polarized light. This striking photomechanical effect results from a photoselective volume contraction and may be useful in the development of high-speed actuators for microscale or nanoscale applications, for example in microrobots in medicine or optical microtweezers.