Preparation of liquid crystal networks for macroscopic oscillatory motion induced by light

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A strategy based on doped liquid crystalline networks is described to create mechanical self-sustained oscillations of plastic films under continuous light irradiation. The photo-excitation of dopants that can quickly dissipate light into heat, coupled with anisotropic thermal expansion and self-shadowing of the film, gives rise to the self-sustained deformation. The oscillations observed are influenced by the dimensions and the modulus of the film, and by the directionality and intensity of the light. The system developed offers applications in energy conversion and harvesting for soft-robotics and automated systems. The general method described here consists of creating free-standing liquid crystalline films and characterizing the mechanical and thermal effects observed. The molecular alignment is achieved using alignment layers (rubbed polyimide), commonly used in the display manufacturing industry. To obtain actuators with large deformation, the mesogens are aligned and polymerized in a splay/bend configuration, i.e., with the director of the liquid crystals (LCs) going gradually from planar to homeotropic through the film thickness. Upon irradiation, the mechanical and thermal oscillations obtained are monitored with a high-speed camera. The results are further quantified by image analysis using an image processing program.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere56266
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE)
Issue number127
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2017


  • Chemistry
  • Issue 127
  • Liquid crystal
  • Mechanical oscillation
  • Networks
  • Out-ofequilibrium
  • Photo-actuators
  • Photo-thermal effect
  • Polymers
  • Responsive materials


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