Wavelength-Gated Photoreversible Polymerization and Topology Control

We exploit the wavelength dependence of [2+2] photocycloadditions and -reversions of styrylpyrene to exert unprecedented control over the photoreversible polymerization and topology of telechelic building blocks. Blue light affords high molar mass polymers that are stable at wavelengths exceeding 430 nm yet highly responsive to shorter wavelengths. UVB irradiation induces a rapid depolymerization yielding linear oligomers, whereas violet light generates cyclic entities. Different colors of light thus allow switching between a depolymerization that either proceeds through cyclic or linear topologies. The light-controlled topology formation was evidenced by correlation of mass spectrometry (MS) with size exclusion chromatography (SEC) and ion mobility data.