The ability to control the creation of mechanical work remotely, with high speed and spatial precision, over long distances, offers many intriguing possibilities. Recent developments in photoresponsive polymers and nanocomposite concepts are at the heart of these future devices. Whether driving direct conformational changes, initiating reversible chemical reactions to release stored strain, or converting a photon to a local temperature increase, combinations of photoactive units, nanoparticles, ordered mesophases, and polymeric networks are providing an expansive array of photoresponsive polymer options for mechanical devices. Framing the typically geometry-specific observations into an applied engineering vocabulary will ultimately define the role of these materials in future actuator applications, ranging from microfluidic valves in medical devices to optically controlled mirrors in displays.

Read full text on ScienceDirect

DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(08)70147-0