Shape-transformable molecular additives with photoresponsivity, such as azobenzene or spiropyran, in matter are known to decrease the local order parameter and lead to drastic state variations under light irradiation. For example, a liquid crystalline state can be transformed to an isotropic liquid state by photo-exciting a tiny amount of azobenzene additives from trans- to cis-conformers. On the other hand, structural or shape transformation without changing the phase state is also intriguing since it offers an opportunity for manipulating specific structures. Here, we demonstrate an active control of the topology of chiral particle-like twisting structures, dubbed toron, by light. Interestingly, the individual twisting structure is fully reconfigurable between spherical and unique branched topological states. We reveal that the shape transformation is driven by the free-energy competition between the variation of surface anchoring strength and the elastic energy stored in the twisting structure. The mean-field simulation based on the Landau–de Gennes framework shows that the elastic anisotropy plays the dominant role in modifying the toron topology upon weak anchoring. The results offer a new path for understanding the process of topology-involved shape transformation and fabrication of novel functional materials.

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