Dartmouth researchers used visible light to reduce waste produced in chemically activated molecular switches. This has opened the way for industrial applications of nanotechnology ranging from anti-cancer drug delivery to LCD displays and molecular motors.
Chemically activated molecular switches are molecules that can shift controllably between two stable states and that can be reversibly switched to turn different functions. For example, light-activated switches can fine-tune anti-cancer drugs, so that they target only cancer cells and not healthy ones, thereby eliminating the side effects of chemotherapy.
However, these switches generate waste and side products that are problematic. In their experiments, the researchers show that by using light energy, similar to how photosynthesis operates in nature. A merocyanine-based photoacid derivative can effectively be used in a switching process that is fast, efficient and forms no wastes.
The study is published in the 'Journal of the American Chemical Society'.