Molecules in the form of extended chains (polymers) make liquids or glasses, depending on the chain flexibility. Connecting flexible chains together with chemical crosslinks can turn a polymer liquid into a rubbery or solid material having a fixed shape. Researchers in the Soft Materials Research Center of the University of Colorado Boulder have employed dynamic covalent chemistry to make cross-links that can be controlled optically, enabling materials that can be softened or changed in shape by light.
“Photoinduced Plasticity in Cross-Linked Liquid Crystalline Networks, M.K. McBride,” M. Hendrikx, D.Q. Liu, B.T. Worrell, D.J. Broer, C.N. Bowman, Advanced Materials, 29 (2017). DOI: 10.1002/ADMA.201606509