Excited State Dynamics of a Conformationally Fluxional Copper Coordination Complex

Bronte J Charette, Shelby R King, Jiaqi Chen, Annika R Holm, Justin T Malme, Robert D Cook, Richard D Schaller, Nicholas E Jackson, Lisa Olshansky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The conversion of solar energy into chemical fuel represents a capstone goal of the 21st century and has the potential to supply terawatts of power in a globally distributed manner. However, the disparate time scales of photodriven charge separation (∼fs) and steps in chemical reactions (∼μs) represent an inherent bottleneck in solar-to-fuels technology. To address this discrepancy, we are developing earth-abundant coordination complexes that undergo light-induced conformational rearrangements such that charge separation (CS) is hastened, while charge recombination (CR) is slowed. To these ends, we report the preparation and characterization of a new series of conformationally fluxional copper coordination complexes that contain a twisted intramolecular charge transfer (TICT) fluorophore as part of their ligand scaffold. Structural and spectroscopic characterization of the Cu(I) and Cu(II) complexes formed with these ligands in their ground states establish oxidation state-dependent conformational dynamicity, while time-resolved emission and transient absorption spectroscopies define the photophysical parameters of photo-induced excited states. Building on initial reports with a related set of molecules, the improved ligand design presented here greatly simplifies the observed photophysics, effectively shutting down unwanted ligand-centered excited states previously observed. Time-dependent density functional theory (TDDFT) analyses reveal an unusual metal-to-TICT electronic transition only reported once before, and though the formation of a CS state is not observed directly through experiments, TDDFT geometry optimizations in the excited states support the formation of transient Cu(II) CS species, lending credence to the potential success of our approach. These studies establish a clear model for the excited state dynamics at play in proof-of-concept systems and clarify key design parameters for future optimizations toward achieving long-lived CS via photoinduced conformational gating.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7747-7755
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Issue number37
StatePublished - Sep 21 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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