Photomechanically responsive materials are promising candidates for future smart actuator applications. The photo-responsive behaviors originate from the photoisomerization of photochromic molecules. A typical photochromic compound, azobenzene, has been studied extensively in the solution state and has played a crucial role in the photomechanical behaviors of materials such as polymers and gels, via chemical bridging with their matrix. In contrast to polymers and gels, the photomechanical attributes of molecular crystals have not progressed to the same degree, due to their rigidity and fragility. However, the past decade has witnessed an increasing number of reports of the photomechanical motion of molecular crystals, including azobenzene crystals. This paper reviews the current state-of-the-art of mechanically responsive azobenzene crystals, including the history, crystal design strategy, and future promising applications.
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