It's a 'smart' material world
Materials that can change shape when exposed to light hold great promise for new applications such as smart building materials that harness solar energy and remotely-controlled micro-robots, but even the most advanced materials developed to date lag far behind systems that operate on traditional chemical or electrical power sources, says Ryan Hayward, Professor of Polymer Science and Engineering.
Now, the Office of Naval Research has awarded Hayward as lead investigator and a team of researchers at UMass Amherst, the University of California, Riverside, Stanford University, the University of California, Santa Barbara, Kent State University, and the California Institute of Technology a five-year, $7.5 million Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grant to support fundamental research needed to design molecules and material architectures that efficiently convert photon energy into mechanical work.
Hayward says, “Materials that convert light into motion, mechanical work, and changes in shape have long captured the imagination of scientists and engineers for their potential in devices powered by light and controlled by optical signals. This new project is an exciting opportunity to bring together people with a wide variety of backgrounds and skills to really rethink how light-responsive materials are designed and fabricated.” The project will merge theory, modeling and simulations with synthesis, processing and characterization of new materials and systems across length-scales ranging from single molecules to bulk materials. The researchers hope to ultimately develop working, light-driven devices.