Voxel resolution in the directed self-assembly of liquid crystal polymer networks and elastomers
Monomeric mixtures formulated to prepare a liquid crystal polymer network (LCN) or elastomer (LCE) can be “programmed” by surface alignment to retain complex and arbitrary spatial distributions of the director orientation upon polymerization. The localized control of orientation in a given volume (voxel) within these materials is the subject of intense research, currently motivated by the prospect of distinctive mechanical responses (both active and passive). Here, we report on a rapid and scalable photopatterning method to prepare alignment surfaces with a throughput of 10 mm2 s−1, using a commercial spatial light modulator and projection optics. Enabled by this method, we detail that the resolution limit of the inscribed director profile is not dictated by the optical system but is determined by the elastic-mediated orientational relaxation of the liquid crystalline materials. A simple model is experimentally validated and the implications for device design are discussed.