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Conversion of light into macroscopic helical motion

Nature Chemistry volume 6, pages 229235 (2014) | Download Citation

Abstract

A key goal of nanotechnology is the development of artificial machines capable of converting molecular movement into macroscopic work. Although conversion of light into shape changes has been reported and compared to artificial muscles, real applications require work against an external load. Here, we describe the design, synthesis and operation of spring-like materials capable of converting light energy into mechanical work at the macroscopic scale. These versatile materials consist of molecular switches embedded in liquid-crystalline polymer springs. In these springs, molecular movement is converted and amplified into controlled and reversible twisting motions. The springs display complex motion, which includes winding, unwinding and helix inversion, as dictated by their initial shape. Importantly, they can produce work by moving a macroscopic object and mimicking mechanical movements, such as those used by plant tendrils to help the plant access sunlight. These functional materials have potential applications in micromechanical systems, soft robotics and artificial muscles.

  • Compound C30H38N2O6

    (E)-((Diazene-1,2-diylbis(4,1-phenylene))bis(oxy))bis(hexane-6,1-diyl) diacrylate

  • Compound C30H38N2O6

    (Z)-((Diazene-1,2-diylbis(4,1-phenylene))bis(oxy))bis(hexane-6,1-diyl) diacrylate

  • Compound C28H38O5

    (S)-Octan-2-yl 4-((4-(hexyloxy)benzoyl)oxy)benzoate

  • Compound C28H38O5

    (R)-Octan-2-yl 4-((4-(hexyloxy)benzoyl)oxy)benzoate

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported financially by the European Research Council (Starting Grant 307784 to N.K.), the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (a Vidi Grant to N.K.) and The Royal Society UK (an International Exchanges Grant to S.P.F. & N.K.).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Laboratory for Biomolecular Nanotechnology, MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology, University of Twente, PO Box 207, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands

    • Supitchaya Iamsaard
    • , Sarah J. Aßhoff
    • , Benjamin Matt
    • , Jeroen J. L. M. Cornelissen
    •  & Nathalie Katsonis
  2. Laboratory for Molecular Nanofabrication, MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology, University of Twente, PO Box 207, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands

    • Tibor Kudernac
  3. Department of Chemistry, Chemistry Research Laboratory, University of Oxford, 12 Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3TA, UK

    • Stephen P. Fletcher

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Contributions

N.K. and S.P.F. conceived the research. N.K., T.K. and J.L.M.C. guided the research. S.I. and B.M. synthesized 1. S.I., S.J.A. and B.M. carried out the experiments. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript at all stages.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Stephen P. Fletcher or Nathalie Katsonis.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nchem.1859