Photochromic systems have been used to achieve a number of engineering functions such as light energy conversion, molecular motors, pumps, actuators, and sensors. Key to practical applications is a high efficiency in the conversion of light to chemical energy, a rigid structure for the transmission of force to the environment, and directed motion during isomerization. We present a novel type of photochromic system (diindane diazocines) that converts visible light with an efficiency of 18 % to chemical energy. Quantum yields are exceptionally high with >70 % for the cis–trans isomerization and 90 % for the back-reaction and thus higher than the biochemical system rhodopsin (64 %). Two diastereomers (meso and racemate) were obtained in only two steps in high yields. Both isomers are directional switches with high conversion rates (76–99 %). No fatigue was observed after several thousands of switching cycles in both systems.
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