Donor-acceptor Stenhouse adducts (DASAs) are negative photochromes that switch with visible light and are highly promising for applications ranging from smart materials to biological systems. However, the strong solvent dependence of the photoswitching kinetics limits their application. The nature of the photoswitching mechanism in different solvents is key for addressing the solvatochromism of DASAs, but as yet has remained elusive. Here, we employ spectroscopic analyses and TD-DFT calculations to reveal changing solvatochromic shifts and energies of the species involved in DASA photoswitching. Time-resolved visible pump-probe spectroscopy suggests that the primary photochemical step remains the same, irrespective of the polarity and protic nature of the solvent. Disentangling the different factors determining the solvent-dependence of DASA photoswitching, presented here, is crucial for the rational development of applications in a wide range of different media.
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