Researchers at RIKEN have successfully developed a revolutionary new polymer film that changes shape upon irradiation with UV and visible light.
Described in Science, the film is the largest-ever example of a material whose molecular elements are ordered in three dimensions on a macroscopic length scale, marking a breakthrough in techniques for molecular design and processing.
Living organisms depend crucially for their growth and development on their ability to assemble molecules into large, ordered three-dimensional structures. The same assembly processes offer an attractive means for designing materials and devices with novel functions, yet scientists have thus far found such processes impossible to reproduce at a macroscopic scale.
To overcome this impasse, the research group used a structure known as a “polymer brush” made up of a polymethacrylate backbone with outstretched side-chains, which together form a cylindrical shape. Azobenzene molecules, known for their propensity to deform when irradiated, were inserted into the side chains, and a free-standing cast film, created from a solution of the polymer brushes, was then tested for photomechanical response.
When no such response was initially detected, the researchers adopted a different approach, sandwiching the polymer brushes between Teflon sheets to first melt them at 130 °C, then “hot-press” them at 115 °C. The hot-pressing process, they discovered, aligned the main chains of the brushes perpendicular to the film plane, while the side chains oriented themselves horizontally along the stretching direction of the Teflon sheets. The resulting 3D molecular ordering enables the film to literally bend and stretch upon alternating irradiation by UV and visible light.
In converting light energy directly into a mechanical force, this remarkable photoresponsive bending motion breaks new ground in the study of functional materials, suggesting applications in the design of muscle-like biomorphic devices. As a technique, the combination of polymer brushes and hot-pressing vastly expands the scale at which such materials can be manufactured, promising to bring advances from the world of molecular processing to the macroscopic level of our daily lives.
For more information, please contact:Dr. Takuzo Aida
Fine organic particles in the atmosphere are more often solid glass beads than liquid oil droplets
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie
Study overturns seminal research about the developing nervous system
21.04.2017 | University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...
Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.
A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy