Light-triggered syneresis of a water insoluble peptide-hydrogel effectively removes small molecule waste contaminants.
A short peptide based hydrogel exhibits aqueous insolubility, thixotropy and efficient light induced syneresis. Upon irradiation with UV light, the hydrogel shrinks and expells ∼50% of the solvent. Syneresis is caused by light-triggered trans-cis isomerisation of an azobenzene moiety in the peptide derivative. This expulsion of solvent can be effectively exploited in the removal of low molecular weight contaminants in water.