Photochromism into nanosystems: towards lighting up the future nanoworld
The ability to manipulate the structure and function of promising nanosystems via energy input and external stimuli is emerging as an attractive paradigm for developing reconfigurable and programmable nanomaterials and multifunctional devices. Light stimulus manifestly represents a preferred external physical and chemical tool for in situ remote command of the functional attributes of nanomaterials and nanosystems due to its unique advantages of high spatial and temporal resolution and digital controllability. Photochromic moieties are known to undergo reversible photochemical transformations between different states with distinct properties, which have been extensively introduced into various functional nanosystems such as nanomachines, nanoparticles, nanoelectronics, supramolecular nanoassemblies, and biological nanosystems. The integration of photochromism into these nanosystems has endowed the resultant nanostructures or advanced materials with intriguing photoresponsive behaviors and more sophisticated functions. In this Review, we provide an account of the recent advancements in reversible photocontrol of the structures and functions of photochromic nanosystems and their applications. The important design concepts of such truly advanced materials are discussed, their fabrication methods are emphasized, and their applications are highlighted. The Review is concluded by briefly outlining the challenges that need to be addressed and the opportunities that can be tapped into. We hope that the review of the flourishing and vibrant topic with myriad possibilities would shine light on exploring the future nanoworld by encouraging and opening the windows to meaningful multidisciplinary cooperation of engineers from different backgrounds and scientists from the fields such as chemistry, physics, engineering, biology, nanotechnology and materials science.