Polymer pen lithography (PPL) is an approach to multiplexing scanning probe lithography, in which an array of probes on a compliant film-coated rigid substrate are used to write patterns on a surface. Recently, it was shown that these nominally passive pen arrays can be rendered photo-active by making them out of a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS)–carbon nanotube (CNT) composite. While such photoactuated pens in principle represent a rapid, maskless, and versatile nanomanufacturing strategy, a key challenge that remains is learning how to effectively control the writing of each pen, individually. In this research, we studied the design of PDMS–CNT thin-film photoactuators and experimentally explored the role of illumination radius, film thickness, and CNT concentration. Additionally, we have proposed a model that predicts actuation efficiency, actuation time, and the crosstalk between pens. Based upon these results, we have generated a map of working efficiency to elucidate the ideal choice for specific actuation requirements. This work lays the foundation for studying further photoactuatable composite films as actuators in applications beyond lithography including soft robotics and adaptive optics.
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