Molecular Switching via Multiplicity-Exclusive E/Z Photoisomerization Pathways
Link to Publication: ACS Publication
Contributing Authors: Jiawang Zhou, Xin Guo, Howard E. Katz, Art Bragg
Date Published: August 10, 2015
Mutual exclusivity in the nature of forward and reserve isomerization pathways holds promise for predictably controlling responses of photoswitchable materials according to molecular structure or external stimuli. Herein we have characterized the E/Z photoisomerization mechanisms of the visible-light-triggered switch 1,2-dithienyl-1,2-dicyanoethene (4TCE) in chlorobenzene with ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy. We observe that switching mechanisms occur exclusively by relaxation through electronic manifolds of different spin multiplicity: trans-to-cis isomerization only occurs via electronic relaxation within the singlet manifold on a time scale of 40 ps; in contrast, cis-to-trans isomerization is not observed above 440 nm, but occurs via two rapid ISC processes into and out of the triplet manifold on time scales of ~2 ps and 0.4 ns, respectively, when excited at higher energies (e.g., 420 nm). Observation of ultrafast ISC in cis-4TCE is consistent with photoinduced dynamics of related thiophene-based oligomers. Interpretation of the photophysical pathways underlying these isomerization reactions is supported by the observation that cis-to-trans isomerization occurs efficiently via triplet-sensitized energy transfer, whereas trans-to-cis isomerization does not. Quantum-chemical calculations reveal that the T1 potential energy surface is barrierless along the coordinate of the central ethylene dihedral angle (θ) from the cis Franck–Condon region (θ = 175°) to geometries that are within the region of the trans ground-state well; furthermore, the T1 and S1 surfaces cross with a substantial spin–orbital coupling. In total, we demonstrate that E/Z photoswitching of 4TCE operates by multiplicity-exclusive pathways, enabling additional means for tailoring switch performance by manipulating spin–orbit couplings through variations in molecular structure or physical environment.