Light-induced shape transformations represent a fundamental step towards the emergence of adaptive materials exhibiting photomechanical behaviours. Although a range of covalent azobenzene-based photoactive materials has been demonstrated, the use of dynamic photoisomerization in mesostructured soft solids involving non-covalent co-assembly has received little attention. Here we prepare discrete micrometre-sized hydrated particles of a hexagonally ordered polyelectrolyte-surfactant mesophase based on the electrostatically induced co-assembly of poly(sodium acrylate) (PAA) and trans-azobenzene trimethylammonium bromide (trans-azoTAB), and demonstrate unusual non-equilibrium substrate-mediated shape transformations to complex multipodal microarchitectures under continuous blue light. The microparticles spontaneously sequester molecular dyes, functional enzymes and oligonucleotides, and undergo self-division when transformed to the cis state under UV irradiation. Our results illustrate that weak bonding interactions in polyelectrolyte-azobenzene surfactant mesophases can be exploited for photo-induced long-range molecular motion, and highlight how dynamic shape transformations and autonomous division can be activated by spatially confining azobenzene photomechanics in condensed microparticulate materials.
- Bristol BioDesign Institute
- SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY