We investigated by optical microscopy the thermal spin transition in single crystals of [Fe(bbtr)3](ClO4)2 (bbtr = 1,4-di(1,2,3-triazol-1-yl) butane). The growth of the low-spin phase was observed for different crystal orientations and sizes. The process always started from a corner of the crystal but its further development depended on the size, shape and thermal history of the crystal. In crystals of smaller size, under isothermal conditions, the low-spin phase developed in a continuous way, through the propagation of a rather well defined transformation front, with a higher propagation velocity inside the planes perpendicular to the c axis. In larger crystals the spontaneous occurrence of inhomogeneous stresses led to a stepwise propagation process.
We present novel insight on like-spin domains (LSD) in cooperative spin transition solids by following the photo-transformation and the subsequent relaxation of a [Fe(ptz)6](BF4)2 single crystal in the vicinity of the light-induced instability. Self-organization under light is observed, accompanied by Barkhausen-like noise and jumps which reveal the presence of elastic interactions between LSDs. The light-induced phase separation process is discussed in terms of a dynamic potential providing spinodal instability in the corresponding temperature range. This useful concept is applicable to all types of switchable molecular solids.