Light-triggered formation of surface topographies in azo polymers

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Properties such as friction, wettability and visual impact of polymer coatings are influenced by the surface topography. Therefore, control of the surface structure is of eminent importance to tuning its function. Photochromic azobenzene-containing polymers are an appealing class of coatings of which the surface topography is controllable by light. The topographies form without the use of a solvent, and can be designed to remain static or have dynamic properties, that is, be capable of reversibly switching between different states. The topographical changes can be induced by using linear azo polymers to produce surface-relief gratings. With the ability to address specific regions, interference patterns can imprint a variety of structures. These topographies can be used for nanopatterning, lithography or diffractive optics. For cross-linked polymer networks containing azobenzene moieties, the coatings can form topographies that disappear as soon as the light trigger is switched off. This allows the use of topography-forming coatings in a wide range of applications, ranging from optics to self-cleaning, robotics or haptics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number231
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • Azo polymers
  • Azobenzene
  • Light responsive polymer coatings
  • Liquid crystal networks
  • Surface relief gratings
  • Surface topographies


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