Light-directed movement of polymer microstructures

Trent R. Northen, Neal Woodbury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Light has been used to induce photochemical changes in the surface chemistry of porous polymer microstructures giving rise to a substantial change in volume. When illumination is asymmetric, this results in light-directed motion of the structure. Swellable trimethylolpropane trimethacrylate cross-linked poly(2-hydroxylethyl methacrylate) microstructures were constructed by azo-bis-isobutyronitrile photopolymerization using a 20 × 0.5 NA microscope objective and 365 nm laser excitation. Structures were aminiated with glycine and protected with the photolabile group 4-nitroveratryloxycarbanyl (NVOC). Addition of NVOC resulted in a volume increase >10% when performed in the solvent N,N′-dimethylformamide. Photochemical cleavage of NVOC using asymmetric illumination of a cone-shaped microstructure with a 365 nm laser induced polymer shrinkage in excess of 4% at the base of the cone and resulted in a maximum velocity of 1 mm/s at the tip of the cone. Symmetric illumination gave rise to displacement of solvent from the microstructure due to shrinkage with a velocity in excess of 0.01 mm/s. This system could in principle be used for light-directed movement of micromechanical systems, optical control of microfluidics, or light activated chemical delivery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4949-4953
Number of pages5
Issue number11
StatePublished - May 24 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Light-directed movement of polymer microstructures'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this