Photo-induced deformation of active polymer films: Single spot irradiation

Kevin N. Long, Timothy F. Scott, Martin L. Dunn, H. Jerry Qi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Light-activated polymers can undergo complex deformation in response to the combination of mechanical and optical stimuli. These materials are attractive for remote actuation and sensing applications. However, the behavior of such materials subjected to photomechanical patterning is not well understood. In this paper we consider a polymer that operates by photoactivated stress relaxation; at the molecular level, photoinitiation of residual initiator molecules generate free radicals that break and then reform in-chain functionalities of stretched chains in an elastomeric network, which results in macroscopic stress relaxation. We carry out experiments and finite element calculations that demonstrate the sequence of deformation events culminating in the formation of a buckled spot as a result of biaxially stretching the elastomeric film then irradiating a circular region followed by releasing the mechanical constraint. In order to better understand the photomechanics, we analyze a simpler model problem wherein a linear elastic, stress relaxing disk is subjected to (i) radial extension, (ii) irradiation of a concentric circular region, and (iii) release of the applied displacements in (i), which results in deformation and stress redistribution. In the final step, the deformation may transition from planar to buckling out of the plane depending on system parameters. Companion finite element calculations are performed against which our analytical results are in good agreement. Although not directly comparable, the analytic model qualitatively agrees with the experiments. The results of this work provide a useful foundation from which to explore more interesting behavior of periodically photo-mechanically patterned films and other more challenging actuation problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2089-2101
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Solids and Structures
Issue number14-15
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Light activated polymers
  • Soft active materials
  • Surface buckling
  • Surface patterning

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