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Photomechanical Materials: Modeling and Experimentation

Project Full Title:

Design of Light Responsive Material Systems for Amplified Motion - For Hope College Students Only

Project Mentor(s):


Project Mentor(s) EMail:

Project Start Date:


Project End Date:


Project Description:

This interdisciplinary project will incorporate the disciplines of Engineering, Chemistry, Physics and potentially others. However the project is specifically housed within the Hope College Department of Engineering.

Complex machines (say, a bicycle) are constructed from simpler components using well understood design principles and techniques. Typically the simple components are rigid or elastic, perform a single function, and are made from materials that are relatively unresponsive to the surrounding environment. In order to increase the functionality of devices and to enable new design possibilities, it is desirable to develop materials that respond to external stimuli (light, temperature, chemical reactants, etc.) and that have the potential to perform multiple functions. A key challenge in making these materials useful is controlling their responsiveness through tuning material and geometric parameters.

Students will approach this problem by researching light responsive polymer films. Potential applications for these materials include variable stiffness wings for flapping micro air vehicles, soft robotics, artificial cilia, autonomous microfluidic pumps, flexible electronics for responsive medical devices, and devices for energy harvesting. Depending on their focus area, students involved in this project will gain valuable experience in mechanical design for controlled and amplified motions (large displacements, high speeds), synthesizing materials, characterizing material response (image analysis, bending/compression tests, etc.), and modifying material structure and processing to understand effects on material response. Given the multifaceted nature of this research, students may have the opportunity to choose a particular area of interest in which to work. While much of this project is experimental there is also a need for development of mathematical models and simulations.

Current opening are for Hope College students only. For more information about this project or the specific material systems please contact the project mentor and/or see the reference below.

Reference: M. Ravi Shankar, M. L. Smith, et al. Contactless, photoinitiated snap-through in azobenzene-functionalized polymers, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 110, pgs. 18792-18797, 2013.

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