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Photomechanical Energy Conversion Using Polymer Brush Dissociation


A device is investigated that continuously and directly converts light into mechanical energy, using polymers and photodissociation. A polymer brush tethered to a surface is brought into contact with a parallel plate a small distance above it that contains reaction sites where photodissociation of bound polymer and light can occur. Under the appropriate conditions, the collective effect of these polymers is predicted to apply a force parallel to the plates, converting incoming light into mechanical work. Numerical work is carried out to understand this effect, a three-dimensional Langevin simulation, solution to the Fokker-Planck equation, and a one-dimensional Monte Carlo simulation. Theoretical analysis of the Fokker-Planck equation is used to study a model where equilibration of the unbound state occurs and equilibration to a metastable equilibrium is achieved in the bound state. It is shown that the work per cycle can be made much larger than the thermal energy but at the expense of requiring a greatly diminished photodissociation rate. Parameters are discussed in order to optimize mechanical energy conversion.

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