Light-Driven Liquid Crystalline Materials: From Photo-Induced Phase Transitions and Property Modulations to Applications

Chem Rev. 2016 Dec 28;116(24):15089-15166. doi: 10.1021/acs.chemrev.6b00415. Epub 2016 Dec 12.


Light-driven phenomena both in living systems and nonliving materials have enabled truly fascinating and incredible dynamic architectures with terrific forms and functions. Recently, liquid crystalline materials endowed with photoresponsive capability have emerged as enticing systems. In this Review, we focus on the developments of light-driven liquid crystalline materials containing photochromic components over the past decade. Design and synthesis of photochromic liquid crystals (LCs), photoinduced phase transitions in LC, and photoalignment and photoorientation of LCs have been covered. Photomodulation of pitch, polarization, lattice constant and handedness inversion of chiral LCs is discussed. Light-driven phenomena and properties of liquid crystalline polymers, elastomers, and networks have also been analyzed. The applications of photoinduced phase transitions, photoalignment, photomodulation of chiral LCs, and photomobile polymers have been highlighted wherever appropriate. The combination of photochromism, liquid crystallinity, and fabrication techniques has enabled some fascinating functional materials which can be driven by ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light irradiation. Nanoscale particles have been incorporated to widen and diversify the scope of the light-driven liquid crystalline materials. The developed materials possess huge potential for applications in optics, photonics, adaptive materials, nanotechnology, etc. The challenges and opportunities in this area are discussed at the end of the Review.