A comparative study of photoinduced birefringence in azobenzene-side-chain copolymers under continuous-wave (cw) and pulsed irradiation is presented. Absolute refractive index changes were determined by the attenuated total reflection spectroscopy. We clearly demonstrated that pulsed, similarly to cw, irradiation induces a three-dimensional reorientation of azobenzene chromophores. For the same light dose, pulsed irradiation using ns pulses of appropriate pulse energy led to higher values of birefringence, which can be attributed to a cooperative motion of azobenzene side chains and thermal effects induced by the laser pulses.

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