Light controllable release of antinflammatory zinc ions by a smart multifunctional material composed of spiropyrans and single walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) is demonstrated. The exploitation of a number of complementary characterization techniques allows the investigation of both composition and performance of the multifunctional SP/SWNT nanomaterial developed. Moreover, its suitability for potential applications in bio-systems is suggested by the effective removal of the metal catalyst and the introduction of biocompatible linkers into the SP/SWNT material. The realization of potential photo controllable SP/SWNTs based drug delivery systems (DDSs) is envisaged, where nanotubes act as intracellular carriers of light modulated receptors for bioactive agents. This journal is © the Owner Societies 2012.