Dynamics of the photo-thermo-mechanical actuations in NIR-dye doped liquid crystal polymer networks†
We describe photo-thermo-mechanical actuation and its dynamics in thin films of a liquid crystal networks (LCN) under near infrared (NIR) illumination through experiments and simulations. Splay aligned films of different thicknesses (25 μm to 100 μm) were obtained by crosslinking a mixture of mono-functional and bi-functional liquid crystal monomers. The NIR-driven thermo-mechanical actuation was achieved by adding an NIR dye to the monomer mixture. The absorption of incoming radiation by the dye molecules raises the local temperature of the film causing an order–disorder (nematic–isotropic) transition, thereby resulting in a macroscopic shape change. We have investigated the effect of film thickness, NIR laser power and dye concentration on the tip displacement of the films in a cantilever configuration. The experimental findings and finite element simulation results are in reasonably good quantitative agreement. Despite using lower NIR powers than typically employed, the films show high actuation and large displacements. After achieving saturation in actuation, the films exhibit a flutter behavior which is discussed in light of the observed overshoot in the tip displacement for certain intensities and thicknesses. Finally, using a solar simulator, we also show the visible light response of the film.