Designing Improved Light Responsive Actuators through Mechanical Testing and Materials Development

Student Author(s)

Ryan Backman
John Baranski

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Matthew Smith

Document Type


Event Date



Stimulus-responsive actuators allow for intelligent activation of systems, but often suffer from physical limitations like low mechanical work output. The objective of this study was to enhance the behavior of photoresponsive polymer strips through material and mechanical design. These materials were modeled in an arch geometry to study their ability to perform work through a “snapthrough” motion which is activated in practice via a blue-green laser. Continuation and bifurcation software and commercial finite element analysis software were used to identify ideal aspect ratios for use in simulating this snapthrough phenomenon. In addition, a test fixture was designed to measure blocking stress of irradiated samples of near infrared (NIR) responsive materials. Future work will consist of characterizing the absorbance and photostrains of this material based on its percentage of infrared active cross-linker.


This research was supported by the Undergraduate Fellowship Grant from the Michigan Space Grant Consortium.

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