Solvent tuning of photochemistry upon excited-state symmetry breaking

Bogdan Dereka, Denis Svechkarev, Arnulf Rosspeintner, Alexander Aster, Markus Lunzer, Robert Liska, Aaron M. Mohs, Eric Vauthey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


The nature of the electronic excited state of many symmetric multibranched donor–acceptor molecules varies from delocalized/multipolar to localized/dipolar depending on the environment. Solvent-driven localization breaks the symmetry and traps the exciton in one branch. Using a combination of ultrafast spectroscopies, we investigate how such excited-state symmetry breaking affects the photochemical reactivity of quadrupolar and octupolar A–(π-D)2,3 molecules with photoisomerizable A–π–D branches. Excited-state symmetry breaking is identified by monitoring several spectroscopic signatures of the multipolar delocalized exciton, including the S2 ← S1 electronic transition, whose energy reflects interbranch coupling. It occurs in all but nonpolar solvents. In polar media, it is rapidly followed by an alkyne–allene isomerization of the excited branch. In nonpolar solvents, slow and reversible isomerization corresponding to chemically-driven symmetry breaking, is observed. These findings reveal that the photoreactivity of large conjugated molecules can be tuned by controlling the localization of the excitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1925
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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