Scientific article

Looking at Photoinduced Charge Transfer Processes in the IR: Answers to Several Long-Standing Questions

Published inAccounts of chemical research, vol. 50, no. 2, p. 426-434
Publication date2017

Because of its crucial role in many areas of science and technology, photoinduced electron transfer is the most investigated photochemical reaction. Despite this, several important questions remain open. We present recent efforts to answer some of them, which concern both inter- and intramolecular processes. The decisive factor that allowed these issues to be successfully addressed was the use of time-resolved infrared (TRIR) spectroscopy.Many different transient species, such as tight and loose ion pairs (TIPs and LIPs) and exciplexes, have been invoked to explain the dynamics of intermolecular photoinduced charge separation reactions (i.e., electron transfer between two neutral species) and the production of free ions. However, their structures are essentially unknown, and their exact roles in the reaction mechanism are unclear. Indeed, the commonly used transient electronic absorption spectroscopy does not give much structural insight and cannot clearly distinguish ion pairs from free ions, at least in the visible region. Unambiguous spectral signatures of TIPs, LIPs, and exciplexes could be observed in the IR using electron donor/acceptor (D/A) pairs with adequate vibrational marker modes. The ability to spectrally distinguish these intermediates allowed their dynamics to be disentangled and their roles to be determined. Structural information could be obtained using polarization-resolved TRIR spectroscopy. Our investigations reveal that moderately to highly exergonic reactions result in the formation of both TIPs and LIPs. TIPs are not only generated upon direct charge-transfer excitation of DA complexes, as usually assumed, but are also formed upon static quenching with reactant pairs at distances and orientations enabling charge separation without diffusion. On the other hand, dynamic quenching produces primarily LIPs. In the case of highly exergonic reactions, strong indirect evidence for the generation of ion pairs in an electronic excited state was found, accounting for the absence of an inverted region. Finally, weakly exergonic reactions produce predominantly exciplexes, which can evolve further into ion pairs or recombine to the neutral ground state.The high sensitivity of specific vibrational modes to the local electronic density was exploited to visualize the photoinduced charge flow in symmetric A–(π–D)2- and D–(π–A)2-type molecules developed for their two-photon absorption properties. The electronic ground state and Franck–Condon S1 state of these molecules are purely quadrupolar, but the strong solvatochromism of their fluorescence points to a highly dipolar relaxed S1 state. This has been explained in terms of excited-state symmetry breaking induced by solvent and/or structural fluctuations. However, real-time observation of this process was missing. Direct visualization of symmetry-breaking charge transfer was achieved using TRIR spectroscopy by monitoring vibrations localized in the two arms of these molecules. A transition from a purely quadrupolar state to a symmetry-broken state on the timescale of solvent relaxation could be clearly observed in polar solvents, indicating that symmetry breaking occurs primarily via solvent fluctuations. In the case of the D–(π–A)2 molecule, this breaking results in different basicities at the two A ends and consequently in different affinities for H-bonds, which in turn leads to the formation of an asymmetric tight H-bonded complex in highly protic solvents.

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Citation (ISO format)
DEREKA, Bogdan, KOCH, Marius, VAUTHEY, Eric. Looking at Photoinduced Charge Transfer Processes in the IR: Answers to Several Long-Standing Questions. In: Accounts of chemical research, 2017, vol. 50, n° 2, p. 426–434. doi: 10.1021/acs.accounts.6b00538
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ISSN of the journal0001-4842

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