Office of Naval Research Grant Funds Research on Photomechanical Materials

Riverside, Ca –

A team of researchers in Massachusetts and California, including one from UC Riverside, have been awarded a $7.5 million, 5-year Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grant from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Office of Naval Research to study the properties and applications of light-powered materials.

Titled “Photomechanical Material Systems—From Molecules to Devices,” the project is led by Ryan Haywood, a polymer scientist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. UCR’s Christopher Bardeen, a professor of chemistry will prepare crystals and crystal arrays composed of molecules that undergo chemical reactions when exposed to light. These chemical reactions will generate force that can change the crystal shape and move external objects.

Other collaborators are: Todd Martinez at Stanford University, Javier Read de Alaniz at UC Santa Barbara, Peter Palffy-Muhoray at Kent State University, and Kaushik Bhattacharya at the California Institute of Technology.

Materials that convert light into motion, mechanical work, and changes in shape have long captured the imagination of scientists and engineers for their potential in devices that are powered by light and controlled by optical signals. However, even the most advanced materials developed to date lag far behind systems that operate on traditional chemical or electrical power sources. This project aims to develop the fundamental understanding needed to design molecules and material architectures that efficiently convert photon energy into mechanical work.

The MURI program supports research by funding teams of investigators that include more than one traditional science and engineering discipline in order to accelerate the progress. Most of the program’s efforts involve researchers from multiple academic institutions and academic departments. The DOD is issuing 24 awards totaling $169 million to academic institutions in 2018, a six million dollar increase above last year’s total. Read more on the DOD website.

This story contains information provided by the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

-Sarah Nightingale (

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