Single crystals popping under UV light: A photosalient effect triggered by a [2+2] cycloaddition reaction

Raghavender Medishetty, Ahmad Husain, Zhaozhi Bai, Tomče Runčevski, Robert E. Dinnebier, Panče Naumov, Jagadese J. Vittal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The extremely rare examples of dynamic single crystals where excitation by light or heat induces macroscopic motility present not only a visually appealing demonstration of the utility of molecular materials for conversion of energy to work, but they also provide a unique opportunity to explore the mechanistic link between collective molecular processes and their consequences at a macroscopic level. Here, we report the first example of a photosalient effect (photoinduced leaping) observed with crystals of three coordination complexes which is induced by a [2+2] photocycloaddition reaction. Unlike a plethora of other dimerization reactions, when exposed to even weak UV light, single crystals of these materials burst violently, whereby they are propelled to travel several millimeters. The results point to a multistep mechanism where the strain energy that has been accumulated during the dimerization triggers a rapid structure transformation which ultimately results in crystal disintegration. Dancing crystals under UV light: The single crystals of three metal complexes burst under UV light like popcorn. The results demonstrate that solid-state [2+2] photocycloaddition reactions can be utilized for conversion of light into mechanical motion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5907-5911
Number of pages5
JournalAngewandte Chemie - International Edition
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 2 2014


  • jumping crystals
  • phase heterometry
  • photosalient effect
  • popcorn

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry


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