The magic of biaryl linkers: the electronic coupling through them defines the propensity for excited-state symmetry breaking in quadrupolar acceptor–donor–acceptor fluorophores

Abstract
Charge transfer (CT) is key for molecular photonics, governing the optical properties of chromophores comprising electron-rich and electron-deficient components. In hotoexcited dyes with an acceptor–donor–acceptor or donor–acceptor–donor architecture, CT breaks their quadrupolar symmetry and yields dipolar structures manifesting pronounced solvatochromism. Herein, we explore the effects of electronic coupling through biaryl linkers on the excited-state symmetry breaking of such hybrid dyes composed of an electron-rich core, i.e., 1,4-dihydropyrrolo[3,2-b]pyrrole (DHPP), and pyrene substituents that can act as electron acceptors. Experimental and theoretical studies reveal that strengthening the donor–acceptor electronic coupling decreases the CT rates and the propensity for symmetry breaking. We ascribe this unexpected result to effects of electronic coupling on the CT thermodynamics, which in its turn affects the CT kinetics. In cases of intermediate electronic coupling, the pyrene-DHPP conjugates produce fluorescence spectra, spreading over the whole visible range, that in addition to the broad CT emission, show bands from the radiative deactivation of the locally excited states of the donor and the acceptors. Because the radiative deactivation of the low-lying CT states is distinctly slow, fluorescence from upper locally excited states emerge leading to the observed anti-Kasha behaviour. As a result, these dyes exhibit white fluorescence. In addition to demonstrating the multifaceted nature of the effects of electronic coupling on CT dynamics, these chromophores can act as broad-band light sources with practical importance for imaging and photonics.
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Citation
Chem. Sci., 2023 ; https://doi.org/10.1039/D3SC03812B
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