Photoinduced mass transfer of azo polymers from micrometer to submillimeter studied by a real-time single particle strategy†
Photoinduced mass transfer of azo polymers is a fascinating function with potential applications in areas ranging from photonics and nanofabrication to cell biology. However, the true nature of this unique effect still remains elusive in many aspects due to its puzzling mechanism and lack of a way for real-time observation. This work presents a new strategy to study the photoinduced mass transfer through in situ optical microscopic observation and videoing on single particles under laser irradiation. By inspecting the shape evolution processes of the particles from the side view, both the scale and direction of the mass transfer can be well characterized in a real-time manner, which shows great advantages for carrying out the systematic investigation. The mass transfer behaviour was thus investigated using the microspheres with diameters (D) ranging from micrometer to submillimeter. The mass transfer in the direction of the electric vibration was observed to occur in different scales for azo polymers with different degrees of functionalization (DFs) controlled by the light penetration depths. With the varied combinations of particle sizes and DFs, the particles with diversified shape-anisotropy and complex morphologies were generated by the mass transfer. For the microspheres with sizes in micrometer and submillimeter scales, those formed from the azo polymers with extremely high DF (100%) and extremely low DF (1%) respectively exhibited the most efficient mass transfer to cause significant shape deformations. With the optical and thermal simulations, these observations are well rationalized by considering the optical power distribution, energy utilization efficiency and heat dissipation route. This study not only provides deep insight into the photoinduced mass transfer behavior, but also extends the mass transfer scale of the particles from micrometer to submillimeter for the first time.