Kinetics of Light-Induced Concentration Patterns in Transparent Polymer Solutions

When exposed to weak visible laser light, solutions of common polymers like poly­(isoprene) and poly­(butadiene) respond by local concentration variations, which in turn lead to refractive index changes. Various micropatterns have been recently reported, depending mostly on the solvent environment and the irradiation conditions. Here, we focused on the simpler case of single polymer-rich filaments and we employed phase contrast microscopy to systematically investigate the influence of laser illumination and material parameters on the kinetics of the optically induced local concentration increase in the polydiene solutions. The refractive index contrast of the formed filaments increased exponentially with the laser illumination time. The growth rate exhibited linear dependence on the laser power and increased with polymer chain length in semidilute solutions in good solvents. On the contrary, the kinetics of the formed filaments appeared to be rather insensitive to the polymer concentration. Albeit the origin of the peculiar light field-polymer concentration coupling remains yet elusive, the new phenomenology is considered necessary for the elucidation of its mechanism.