The macroscopic motion of liquids on a flat solid surface was manipulated reversibly by photoirradiation of a photoisomerizable monolayer covering the surface. When a liquid droplet several millimeters in diameter was placed on a substrate surface modified with a calixresorcinarene derivative having photochromic azobenzene units, asymmetrical photoirradiation caused a gradient in surface free energy due to the photoisomerization of surface azobenzenes, leading to the directional motion of the droplet. The direction and velocity of the motion were tunable by varying the direction and steepness of the gradient in light intensity. The light-driven motion of a fluid substance in a surface-modified glass tube suggests potential applicability to microscale chemical process systems.
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