We present a novel method of modulating total internal reflection (TIR) from an optical surface using a solution of dye ions in combination with a nanostructured electrode. Previous work using the electrophoretic movement of pigment particles to modulate TIR was limited by agglomeration of the pigment over time. Dye ions do not suffer from this limitation, but because of their small size they have significantly smaller absorption cross-section per unit charge than pigment particles which are generally two orders of magnitude larger. This significantly limits the maximum absorption caused by electrostatic attraction of the ions to a transparent conductive electrode. This can be overcome by using a transparent conductive nanoporous thin film as the electrode in which the porosity increases the effective surface area, allowing more dye ions to move into the evanescent wave region near the nanoporous transparent electrode and thus substantially increases the amount of absorption. In this paper, we demonstrate the modulation of TIR by observing the time-dependent variation of the reflectance as the dye ions are moved into and out of the evanescent wave region. This approach may have applications in reflective displays and active diffractive devices.© (2007) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.