Recent studies of azo-dye-doped liquid crystal elastomers show a strong photomechanical response. We report on models that predict experimental results that suggest photothermal heating is the dominant mechanism in a planar constrained geometry. We compare our models with experiments to determine key material parameters, which are used to predict the dynamical response as a function of intensity. We show that a local strain from photothermal heating and a nonlocal strain from thermal diffusion is responsible for the observed length changes over time. This work both elucidates the fundamental mechanisms and provides input for the design of photomechanical optical devices, which have been shown to have the appropriate properties for making smart materials.
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