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Materials for Optomechanical Actuation 

25-27 June 2017
Washington, DC

Hosted By:
Chris Bardeen
, University of California Riverside, United States
Antti Makinen, Office of Naval Research, United States
Peter A. Morrison, Office of Naval Research, United States
Ravi Shankar, University of Pittsburgh, United States

Read more about this meeting: Day 1 and Day 2

View agenda here (pdf)


Light-actuated devices fabricated using photomechanically-responsive materials can offer significant new functionalities. However, fundamental scientific questions about the nature and limits of light-matter interaction leading to structural strain and the processes of energy conversion leading to mechanical work are largely unexplored. Only a limited number of research publications are known to address concepts of materials capable of direct photon induced strain, while the potential for photovoltaics and piezoelectrics suggest that additional capabilities or efficiencies may yet be realized.
Organic photochemical reactions provide a direct way to transform light into repeatable mechanical motion.  Most studies in this area have focused on the cis-trans photoisomerization of azobenzene chromophores embedded in polymer matrices.  Recent advances in materials chemistry have greatly expanded the family of solid-state photoreactions that give rise to photomechanical effects.  In addition, recent work on plasmonic nanomechanical metamaterials, where light illumination induces the displacement of nanoscale elements modulating their plasmonic resonances is emerging.  Increased understanding of light-induced forces and strain in materials lead to a new framework for using or creating materials with the reversible structural, chemical, or dynamic properties are needed to realize new lightweight actuation mechanisms and sensors powered by light energy.


This Incubator will bring together a community of leading researchers with experience in photomechanically responsive materials to facilitate a survey of the field and recommendations for the most fruitful and relevant research directions that could lead to real-world applications. The program will include invited talks and moderated discussions, specific goals will include:

  1. Identify potential for new materials that have improved reversibility, stability, and processability, as well as higher photon-to-strain conversion efficiencies than currently exist (250-300 pico-meters/photon-volt). Identify new approaches for materials discovery, as well as potential barriers for the development of such materials.
  2. Understand versatility, scalability and programmability of resulting materials and system architectures compared with currently available materials and systems [e.g. electrical actuators], including hysteresis and nontraditional chimerism.
  3. Identify possible applications in which light-powered actuators would have a significant advantage as compared to traditional [e.g electrically powered] actuators.
  4. Examine new paradigms of all-optical closed-loop control of photomechanical systems to enable robust mechanical manipulation.
  5. Overview of integration and interfacing of components and materials with other systems, such as compact light sources, fiber waveguides and existing actuator outputs,
  6. Compare test and evaluation methods for categorization, modeling, selection, benchmarking, and comparison.

Scope & Featured Topics

This program will utilize a limited number talks and moderated discussion to explore fundamental studies of photomechanically-responsive materials, including computational modeling, as well as experimental studies of organic and inorganic materials including polymers, semiconductors, and highly engineered material systems known as metamaterials. Topic examples include: 

  1. Photophysics and optomechanical effects in solid-state materials (organic and inorganic)
  2. Metamaterial architectures and their integration with other optically active materials for optomechanical functions
  3. Characteristic identification or figures of merit, helpful in classification or utility
  4. Devices and applications, including material testing.

Meeting Sponsor

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