As their individual effects can be quite small in relation to the large system into which theycan be incorporated, they demonstrate a novel way to amplify initial switching across the wholedevice. For example, incorporation of a switch into the side chains of a polypeptide allows theamplification of the switch’s signal as it induces conformational changes in the macromolecularstructure of the polypeptide upon activation or deactivation of the switch.
There are a number of mechanisms by which different types of molecular switches operateincluding: photoinduced electron transfer, the optical control of chirality and photochromism.The latter is the mechanism of action of the molecular switch employed in this report. In light-responsive (photochromic) molecular switches the chromophoric moiety of the molecule isresponsible for the absorption of light, which leads to the promotion of the molecule to anelectronic excited state from where the reaction pathway continues to produce a fluorescentsignal. There are three main characteristics for highly efficient photochromic molecules: i) alarge ground state extinction coefficient
ii) a reasonably long excited-state lifetime (severalnanoseconds), and iii) a high-fluorescent-quantum-yield-to-minimise-side-reactions.
Photochromism is the reversible transformation of a chemical species between two isomers,each with different absorption spectra, which is induced in at least one direction by theabsorption of electromagnetic radiation.
The reverse reaction can occur photochemically orthermally where the prefixes
indicate the respective pathways which the moleculefollows.
Indeed photochromic systems have been used for thousands of years: for example,human vision relies on the photochromic proteins rhodopsin and iodopsin, which are located inthe retina of the eye.
The first observations of photochromism in solution were reported by