Azobenzene-compound-based photomechanical actuator devices

Xianjun Ye, Mark G. Kuzyk

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

3 Scopus citations


It has been shown that the chromophore disperse red 1 azobenzene (DR1) when doped into poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) optical fiber can be used to make an optical cantilever in which an asymmetrically propagating beam at 633nm causes the fiber to bend. The fast response process is purported to be due to elongation of the material as molecules change between cis and trans isomers. In our work, UV light of 350nm will be used to investigate trans to cis isomerization, which should induce contraction. Short fiber segments in a three-contactpoint geometry will be used to control the position and tilt of silver- or aluminum-coated coverslips that together with microscope glass slides as the substrate make optically-actuated beam-controlling mounts and Fabry-Perot interferometers. A Michelson interferometer is used to measure the length change of the fiber actuator. Azodye doped liquid crystal (LC) elastomers have been demonstrated to have a photomechanical effect that is at least ten times bigger than thermoplastic-based polymer fiber. However, the optical quality of thermoplastics are much better, enabling the cascading of devices in series. We will report on visible and UV laser-actuation of LC elastomer and polymer device structures using a quadrant photodetector to record the beam deflection caused by the shape change of the material, which will allow for dynamical measurements of the mechanisms. All measurements will be calibrated against a piezoelectric crystal actuator. Photomechanical devices provide an inexpensive but versatile, small-form factor, vibration free and high precision solution to optomechanics, sensing, positioning and other space applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNanophotonics and Macrophotonics for Space Environments VI
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes
EventNanophotonics and Macrophotonics for Space Environments VI - San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: Aug 13 2012Aug 14 2012

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X


ConferenceNanophotonics and Macrophotonics for Space Environments VI
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego, CA


  • Azobenzene
  • Disperse red 1
  • Photoisomerization
  • Photomechanical
  • Polymer fiber

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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