Symposium EL05—Putting Photons to Work—Progress in Photomechanical Materials and Applications
Photomechanical materials provide new ways to convert light directly into mechanical motion. The general strategy is to absorb a photon and convert its energy to heat or chemical reactions that cause physical changes in the material, like expansion. This physical change can then be harnessed to perform mechanical work as part of an actuator structure. The use of photons to power mechanical work has several advantages: they are immune from electromagnetic interference, they can be transmitted over large distances with negligible loss, they do not require physical contact with the object being powered, and solar energy is clean and abundant.
Research in this area spans a broad range of fields, from mechanical engineering to molecular chemistry, soft matter physics and polymer science. This symposium will bring together researchers from multiple areas in an attempt to identify unifying themes and highlight complementary approaches. The first part of the symposium will focus on photophysical phenomena that can give rise to photomechanical effects, including charge separation, photochemical phase transitions, and photothermal effects. The next set of sessions will look at different material classes that exhibit these effects, including inorganic semiconductors, polymers and composites based on graphene and carbon nanotubes, and liquid crystal elastomers that incorporate light-responsive molecular switches in their design. Photoactivated gels and photomechanical molecular crystals will also be featured.
The symposium will conclude with several sessions that focus on applications that require light control and energy transduction. These talks will mostly feature robotics and biological control and will serve to introduce the materials community to the applications envisioned by the engineering and robotics communities.