We identify unique features of a highly-absorbing negatively photochromic molecular switch, donor acceptor Stenhouse adduct (DASA), that enable its use for self-regulating light-activated control of fluid flow. Leveraging features of DASA’s chemical properties and solvent-dependent reaction kinetics, we demonstrate its use for photo-controlled Rayleigh-Bénard convection to generate dynamic, self-regulating flows with unparalleled fluid velocities (~mm s−1) simply by illuminating the fluid with visible light. The exceptional absorbance of DASAs in solution, uniquely controllable reaction kinetics and resulting spatially-confined photothermal flows demonstrate the ways in which photoswitches present exciting opportunities for their use in optofluidics applications requiring tunable flow behavior.
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