Enhanced Sampling Aided Design of Molecular Photoswitches

J Am Chem Soc. 2022 Oct 26;144(42):19265-19271. doi: 10.1021/jacs.2c04419. Epub 2022 Oct 12.


Advances in the evolving field of atomistic simulations promise important insights for the design and fundamental understanding of novel molecular photoswitches. Here, we use state-of-the-art enhanced simulation techniques to unravel the complex, multistep chemistry of donor-acceptor Stenhouse adducts (DASAs). Our reaction discovery workflow consists of enhanced sampling for efficient chemical space exploration, refinement of newly observed pathways with more accurate ab initio electronic structure calculations, and structural modifications to introduce design principles within future generations of DASAs. We showcase our discovery workflow by not only recovering the full photoswitching mechanism of DASA but also predicting a plethora of new plausible thermal pathways and suggesting a way for their experimental validation. Furthermore, we illustrate the tunability of these newly discovered reactions, leading to a potential avenue for controlling DASA dynamics through multiple external stimuli. Overall, these insights could offer alternative routes to increase the efficiency and control of DASA's photoswitching mechanism, providing new elements to design more complex light-responsive materials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation*
  • Models, Molecular