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Light-driven Dean-Stark trap

By designing unique photoswitches, which display light-driven reactivity reversal, so called “umpolung”, we were able to achieve selective and nearly quantitative covalent bond formation or scission simply by choosing the appropriate illumination wavelength – even if the underlying condensation/hydrolysis equilibrium is thermodynamically disfavored. Our approach allows to actively and reversibly removing specific components in a closed dynamic covalent system and thus resembles a molecular and bidirectional version of a macroscopic Dean–Stark trap. This pioneering study, which has just appeared in Nature Chemistry (link), has great potential for the development of light-driven adhesives and self-healing materials and might one day allow to photorecycle plastics. Congratulations to Micha and Fabi!