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Reversible Photochromic Coordination Polymer by Phototriggered Subtle Molecular Conformation Variations

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journal contribution
posted on 02.12.2021, 20:33 by Qiu-Feng Wang, Hong-Chuan Fan, Qian Zhou, Xin Chen, Long-Jie Wang, Zhi-Xiang Lu, Shao-Xiong Yang, Li-Yan Zheng, Qiu-E Cao
Photochromic materials are constructed with molecules accompanied by structural change after triggering by light, which are of great importance and necessity for various applications. However, because of space-confinement effects, molecule stacking of these photoresponsive chromophores within coordination polymers (CPs) always results in an efficiency decrement and a response delay, and this phenomenon will lead to a poor photochromic property. Herein, a CP (named CIT-E) with a 3-fold-interpenetrating network structure, which was prepared with (Z)-1,2-diphenyl-1,2-bis­[4-(pyridin-3-ylmethoxy)­phenyl]­ethene (1Z) and a CuI cluster, showed fast reversible photochromic behavior. Under UV-light illumination, the color of CIT-Z changed from pale yellow to reddish brown. With the illumination of green light, the polymer could return to its initial color within 10 s. To reveal the mechanism of reversible photochromic behavior of CIT-Z, single-crystal structures of each color state were fully studied, and other scientific study methods were also used, such as time-dependent density functional theory calculation and control experiments. It was found that, with light illumination, this behavior of CIT-Z was the result of a ligand-to-metal charge-transfer process, and this process was triggered by subtle molecular conformation variation of tetraphenylethylene. It should be noted that CIT-Z has high thermal and chemical stability, which are excellent advantages as smart photoresponsive materials. As a proof of concept, a uniform thin film with such a fascinating photochromic property allows applications in invisible anticounterfeiting and dynamic optical data storage. Overall, the present study opens up a new avenue toward reversible photochromic materials.