Polymers that can change shape or surface topography in response to a trigger have a wide application potential varying from micro-robotics to avionics. Preferably this morphing proceeds fast and reversibly. We developed new morphing principles based on in-situ photopolymerized liquid crystal networks and on hybrid low molecular weight liquid crystals and liquid crystal networks. Commonly the triggers are temperature, light, pH or the presence of chemicals or other moisture. In the lecture we will focus on UV actuation and demonstrate that by accurate positioning of molecules over all three dimensions of a thin film or coating, the deformation figures can be pre-engineered. They can vary from simple gratings to very complex such as fingerprints that can be switched between off (flat surface) and on (corrugated surface) by light. The underlying principles are based on photo-induced changes in the degree of order of liquid crystal polymer networks and the accompanying changes in density by the formation of free volume. The surfaces can be switched with frequencies of the order of 0.1 Hz. In the lecture we will discuss several methods to fabricate the responsive layers as well as some of the most eye-catching properties. Also the mechanism of free volume generation will be addressed in terms of molecular dynamics and resonance.
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