The incorporation of azobenzene chromophores into polymer systems gives rise to a number of unique effects under UV and visible light irradiation. The light-driven isomerization of the azobenzene element acts as a light-to-mechanical energy converter, translating the nanoscopic structural movement of the isomerization azobenzene into macroscopic topographic film modulation in the form of surface relief. This review focuses on the study of reversible changes in shape in various systems incorporating azobenzene, including large-scale superficial photo-patterned glassy materials, light-driven reshaping of tridimensional superficial azo-textures and contractions of stimuli-responsive liquid crystalline networks (LCNs). Further, promising applications of azo systems are investigated as smart biointerfaces able to mimic time-varying biological systems.
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