Sum frequency generation (SFG) vibrational spectroscopy is employed to investigate the reversible, photoinduced spiro merocyanine isomerization of a self-assembled monolayer, the result of attachment of nitrospiropyran to a gold surface using a dithiolane anchoring group. The attachment of these molecular "alligator clips" to spiropyran molecules provide an easily accessible method to self-assemble a robust monolayer of spiropyran on a gold surface, which allows photoswitching of the spiropyran units. Probing the symmetric and antisymmetric stretching modes of the nitro group allows the determination of the structural orientation of the charged moiety with respect to the surface normal as well as the isomerization rates under photoinduced switching conditions. The photoisomerization of the spiropyran SAM on the gold surface is much faster than the rates of switching spiropyrans in a solid crystalline form, and the rate of thermal relaxation of the opened to closed form in this study is found to be on the same time scale as the relaxation of spiropyran when present in solutions with polar solvents.
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