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Azobenzene photoswitching without ultraviolet light.


Most azobenzene-based photoswitches use UV light for photoisomerization. This can limit their application in biological systems, where UV light can trigger unwanted responses, including cellular apoptosis. We have found that substitution of all four ortho positions with methoxy groups in an amidoazobenzene derivative leads to a substantial (~35 nm) red shift of the n-π band of the trans isomer, separating it from the cis n-π transition. This red shift makes trans-to-cis photoswitching possible using green light (530-560 nm). The cis state is thermally stable with a half-life of ~2.4 days in the dark in aqueous solution. Reverse (cis-to-trans) photoswitching can be accomplished with blue light (460 nm), so bidirectional photoswitching between thermally stable isomers is possible without using UV light at all.