Organic light-emitting transistors are pivotal components for emerging opto- and nanoelectronics applications, such as logic circuitries and smart displays. Within this technology sector, the integration of multiple functionalities in a single electronic device remains the key challenge. Here we show optically switchable organic light-emitting transistors fabricated through a judicious combination of light-emitting semiconductors and photochromic molecules. Irradiation of the solution-processed films at selected wavelengths enables the efficient and reversible tuning of charge transport and electroluminescence simultaneously, with a high degree of modulation (on/off ratios up to 500) in the three primary colours. Different emitting patterns can be written and erased through a non-invasive and mask-free process, on a length scale of a few micrometres in a single device, thereby rendering this technology potentially promising for optically gated highly integrated full-colour displays and active optical memory.

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The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

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Journal peer review information Nature Nanotechnology thanks Rafaella Capelli and other anonymous reviewers for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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The authors acknowledge funding from the European Commission through the Marie Sklodowska-Curie ITN project iSwitch (GA-642196), the Marie Sklodowska-Curie ITN project SYNCHRONICS (GA-643238), ERC projects SUPRAFUNCTION (GA-257305) and LIGHT4FUNCTION (GA-308117), the Agence Nationale de la Recherche through the Labex project CSC (ANR-10-LABX-0026 CSC) within the Investissement d’Avenir programme (ANR-10-120 IDEX-0002-02), the International Center for Frontier Research in Chemistry (icFRC) as well as the German Research Foundation (via SFB 765 and SFB 951). F.C. is a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award holder.

Author information

Author notes

    • Xiaoyan Zhang

    Present address: Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden

    • Bernd M. Schmidt

    Present address: Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Institute for Organic Chemistry and Macromolecular Chemistry, Düsseldorf, Germany


  1. Université de Strasbourg, CNRS, ISIS, Strasbourg, France

    • Lili Hou
    • , Xiaoyan Zhang
    •  & Paolo Samorì
  2. Department of Physics and Astronomy (CMMP Group) and London Centre for Nanotechnology, University College London, London, UK

    • Giovanni F. Cotella
    • , Giuseppe Carnicella
    •  & Franco Cacialli
  3. Department of Chemistry & IRIS Adlershof, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany

    • Martin Herder
    • , Bernd M. Schmidt
    • , Michael Pätzel
    •  & Stefan Hecht


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L.H., X.Z. and P.S. conceived the experiments. M.H., B.M.S., M.P. and S.H. synthesized the DAEs. L.H. carried out UV–vis absorption and photoluminescence measurements. X.Z. performed atomic force microscopy (the F8/DAE_tBu sample by G.C.) and CV measurements. L.H. and X.Z. designed the devices, performed the electrical experiments and carried out emitting pattern writing. G.F.C., G.C. and F.C. designed and built the device characterization set-up. G.F.C., G.C. and L.H. performed the quantitative OLET device characterization. All authors discussed the results and contributed to interpretation of data. L.H., X.Z. and P.S. co-wrote the paper, with input from all co-authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Stefan Hecht or Franco Cacialli or Paolo Samorì.

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