Noncommutative Switching of Double Spiropyrans

Luuk Kortekaas, Jorn D. Steen, Daniel R. Duijnstee, Denis Jacquemin, Wesley R. Browne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
195 Downloads (Pure)


The spiropyran family of photochromes are key components in molecular-based responsive materials and devices, e.g., as multiphotochromes, covalently coupled dyads, triads, etc. This attention is in no small part due to the change in properties that accompany the switch between spiropyran and merocyanine forms. Although the spiropyran is a single structural isomer, the merocyanine form represents a family of isomers (TTT, TTC, CCT, etc.) and protonation states. Combining two spiropyrans into one compound increases the number of possible structures dramatically and the interaction between the units determines, which are impeded due to intramolecular quenching of excited states. Here, we show that the coupling of two spiropyran photochromes through their phenol units yields favorable interactions (crosstalk) between the components that provides access to species inaccessible with the component monospiropyran alone. Specifically, the ring opening of one spiropyran unit, which is thermally stable at-30 °C, prevents ring opening of the second spiropyran unit. Furthermore, whereas protonated E-and Z-monomerocyanines were previously shown to undergo thermal-and photo-equilibration, the corresponding protonated E-and Z-bimerocyanines are thermally stable and show one-way photoisomerization from the Z,Z-to an emissive E,E-bimerocyanine form. Subsequent deprotonation at room temperature resets the system to the bispiro ring-closed form, but deprotonation at-30 °C yields the otherwise inaccessible bimerocyanine form. This form is photochemically inert but undergoes a two-step thermal relaxation via the merocyanine-spiropyran form, showing that the connection at the phenol units provides sufficient intramolecular interaction to fine-tune the complex isomerization pathways of spiropyrans and demonstrating noncommutability in photo-and pH-regulated multistep isomerization pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6458-6467
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Issue number32
Publication statusPublished - 13-Aug-2020




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