Purely light-driven spatiotemporal pattern formation has been found to take place in a liquid-crystalline Langmuir monolayer consisting of an amphiphilic azobenzene derivative, undergoing the trans ⇒ cis photoisomerizations. The Langmuir monolayer is in a smectic-C-like liquid crystal phase, whose two-dimensional orientation is easily perturbed by slight conformation changes in the constituent molecules. On illumination with a linearly polarized light, a collective and global in-plane reorientation of the azobenzene chromophores is induced over an existing static stripe texture, which finally yields polarization-dependent steady state orientational patterns. Prolonged photoexcitation generates sustained traveling and solitary waves, associated with variations in molecular tilt directions. The liquid crystallinity of the monolayer allows these orientational responses to occur even at an extremely weak light power at least 2 orders of magnitude smaller than that known in previous photoreorientation studies of azobenzene chromophores.
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