Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids
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Photoinduced orientation in a series of molecular glasses made of small push-pull azo derivatives is dynamically investigated for the first time. Birefringence measurements at 632.8 nm are conducted with a temporal resolution of 100 ms to probe the fast rate of the azo orientation induced under polarized light and its temporal stability over several consecutive cycles. To better evaluate the influence of the azo chemical substituents and their electronic properties on the orientation of the whole molecule, a series of push-pull azo derivatives involving a triphenylaminoazo core substituted with distinct electron-withdrawing moieties is studied. All resulting thin films are probed using polarization modulation infrared spectroscopy that yields dynamical linear dichroism measurements during a cycle of orientation followed by relaxation. We show here in particular that the orientation rates of small molecule-based azo materials are systematically increased up to 7-fold compared to those of a reference polymer counterpart. For specific compounds, the percentage of remnant orientation is also higher, which makes these materials of great interest and promising alternatives to azobenzene-containing polymers for a variety of applications requiring a fast response and absolute control over the molecular weight.