Unusual photoresponses in the upper critical solution temperature of polymer solutions mediated by changes in intermolecular interactions in an azo-doped liquid crystalline solvent†
Photoinduced changes in the upper critical solution temperature (UCST) were investigated for polymer solutions in an azobenzene-doped liquid crystal solvent. The UCST of poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) and polystyrene (PS) solutions dropped upon irradiation with UV light, which induces trans–cis photoisomerization of the doped azo dye. In the case of PMMA solutions, the photoinduced drop in UCST was significantly larger than that expected from previous studies using azo-based polymers and common solvents. Moreover, the UCST of PS solutions also decreased under photoirradiation, in a direction opposite to that expected from the contribution of polarity. X-ray diffraction data of the solvent suggest that the decreased intermolecular interaction in the solvent (i.e. larger distance between the solvent molecules) is responsible for the photoresponsive behavior of the UCST. The proposed mechanism is consistent with the Flory–Huggins theory. Using such photoresponses in the UCST, the isothermal transition between 2-phase and 1-phase states by photoirradiation was demonstrated.