A new form of self-assembling polymer film that bends and stretches when hit by light is pointing the way to a new family of functional materials. This flexing film is the first material to have been made by coaxing complex molecules to form large-scale, highly ordered three dimensional arrays—a discovery that could change the way that many active material are made, from artificial muscles to solar cells.
Figure 1: The light-responsive film is made up of polymer brushes (right) that have self-assembled into a two-layer, three-dimensional array (left).
Reproduced, with permission, from Ref. 1 © 2011 American Association for the Advancement of Science