Reversible chemical transformation by absorption of electromagnetic radiation

Sometimes, and particularly in the dye industry, the term irreversible photochromic is used to describe materials that undergo a permanent color change upon exposure to ultraviolet or visible light radiation. Because by definition photochromics are reversible, there is technically no such thing as an "irreversible photochromic"—this is loose usage, and these compounds are better referred to as "photochangable" or "photoreactive" dyes.

Some quinones, and phenoxynaphthacene quinone in particular, have photochromicity resulting from the ability of the phenyl group to migrate from one oxygen atom to another. Quinones with good thermal stability have been prepared, and they also have the additional feature of redox activity, leading to the construction of many-state molecular switches that operate by a mixture of photonic and electronic stimuli.