Liquid crystals (LCs) offer the basis of stimuli-responsive materials that can amplify targeted molecular events into macroscopic outputs. However, general and versatile design principles are needed to realize the full potential of these materials. To this end, we report the synthesis of two homopolymers with mesogenic side chains that can be cleaved upon exposure to either H2O2 (polymer P1) or UV light (polymer P2). Optical measurements reveal that the polymers dissolve in bulk LC and spontaneously assemble at nematic LC-aqueous interfaces to impose a perpendicular orientation on the LCs. Subsequent addition of H2O2 to the aqueous phase or exposure of the LC to UV was shown to trigger a surface-driven ordering transition to a planar orientation and an accompanying macroscopic optical output. Differences in the dynamics of the response to each stimulus are consistent with sequential processing of P1 at the LC-aqueous interface (H2O2) and simultaneous transformation of P2 within the LC (UV). The versatility of the approach is demonstrated by creating stimuli-responsive LCs as films or microdroplets, and by dissolving mixtures of P1 and P2 into LCs to create LC materials that respond to two stimuli. Overall, our results validate a simple and generalizable approach to the rational design of polymers that can be used to program stimuli-responsiveness into LC materials.
- cleavable homopolymers
- liquid crystals
- smart materials
- stimuli-responsive materials
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry