From Light to Motion: Shaping surfaces with light

A quantitative study that leads to a more precise control of the photoactive surface
Schematic of azopolymer/PDMS double layer. Image by Yujiao Dong, Aalto University
Schematic of azopolymer/PDMS double layer. Image: Yujiao Dong / Aalto University

Researchers from the Multifunctional Materials Design group at Aalto University explored the use of photoactive materials to control surface topographies, specifically in generating photo-responsive wrinkle patterns. Azobenzene and its derivatives are employed to trigger photoisomerization reactions upon illumination, resulting in the conversion of electromagnetic energy into mechanical energy. In fact, supramolecular design is utilized to build polymer-azo complexes, allowing for easy tuning of the rate of pattern evolution at constant illumination intensity. 

The study characterizes dynamic photoinduced wrinkle erasure enabled by photomechanical changes in supramolecular polymer-azo complexes via confocal microscopy. Furthermore, a MATLAB algorithm was developed to thoroughly analyze the video that captures the wrinkle erasure process. As a result, a combination of confocal microscopy and the mentioned MATLAB analysis enables a quantitative comparison of wrinkling erasure efficiency of different supramolecular materials and provides a facile way to optimize the system for specific applications. 

This work provides insight into the conversion of molecular-level motion into larger scales and broadens other opportunities for tissue engineering and biological applications. 

The findings were published in ChemPhysChem, Volume 24, Issue 13 (Yujiao Dong, Dr. Pedro E. S. Silva, Prof. Dr. Jaakko V. I. Timonen, Prof. Dr. Jaana Vapaavuori).

The news article was prepared by Bach Nguyen (MMD / Aalto University).

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