We report the detailed properties of photo-induced travelling waves in liquid crystalline Langmuir monolayers composed of azobenzene derivatives. When the monolayer, in which the constituent rodlike molecules are coherently tilted from the layer normal, is weakly illuminated to undergo the trans-cis photo-isomerization, spatio-temporal periodic oscillations of the molecular azimuth begin over the entire excited area and propagate as a two-dimensional orientational wave. The wave formation takes place only when the film is formed at an asymmetric interface with broken up-down symmetry and when the chromophores are continuously excited near the long-wavelength edge of absorption to induce repeated photo-isomerizations between the trans and cis forms. Under proper illumination conditions, Langmuir monolayers composed of a wide variety of azobenzene derivatives have been confirmed to exhibit similar travelling waves with velocity proportional to the excitation power irrespective of the degree of amphiphilicity. The dynamics can be qualitatively explained by the modified reaction-diffusion model proposed by Reigada, Sagués and Mikhailov.
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