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Cucurbit[8]uril Mediated Donor–Acceptor Ternary Complexes: A Model System for Studying Charge-Transfer Interactions

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journal contribution
posted on 08.03.2012, 00:00 by Frank Biedermann, Oren A. Scherman
A supramolecular self-assembly approach is described which allows for the convenient preparation of a wide range of charge-transfer (CT) donor–acceptor complexes in aqueous solutions. When one equiv of the macrocyclic host cucurbit[8]­uril (CB[8]) is added to an aqueous donor and acceptor solution, a heteroternary complex forms inside the host’s cavity with a well-defined face-to-face π–π-stacking geometry of the donor and acceptor. This heteroternary, CB[8]-mediated complex offers the opportunity to study the CT phenomena at low concentrations and free from complications arising from any donor–donor and acceptor–acceptor interactions as a result of the large binding affinities and the very high selectivity over the formation of these homoternary complexes. Thus, this supramolocular self-assembly strategy is a practical donor–acceptor mix-and-match approach with synthetic advantages over much more cumbersome tethering schemes. While the characteristic UV/vis features of a few CB[8] ternary systems had been described as a CT band, we present for the first time systematic evidence for the existence of CT interactions between several donor–acceptor pairs that are mediated by the host CB[8]. Correlation of the experimentally obtained CT λmax to computed HOMO–LUMO energies demonstrated that the CT process in the host’s cavity can be described by the Mulliken model. Furthermore, the literature claim of a “CT driving force” for the formation of CB[8] ternary complexes was scrutinized and evaluated by calorimetric (ITC) and ESI-MS measurements. The findings indicated that neither in the aqueous medium nor in the “gas-phase” is CT of energetic relevance to the Gibbs free binding energy. In contrast, electrostatic considerations combined with solvation effects are much better suited to rationalize the observed trends in binding affinities. Additionally, the CT λmax was found to be much more red-shifted (≥75 nm) inside the CB[8] cavity than in any polar organic solvents or water, indicating a significant stabilization of the CT excited state within the host cavity, further demonstrating the unique electrostatic, polar properties of the host cavity.