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Control of Excited-State Proton-Coupled Electron Transfer by Ultrafast Pump-Push-Probe Spectroscopy in Heptazine-Phenol Complexes: Implications for Photochemical Water Oxidation

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journal contribution
posted on 2020-03-17, 12:05 authored by Kathryn L. Corp, Emily J. Rabe, Xiang Huang, Johannes Ehrmaier, Mitchell E. Kaiser, Andrzej L. Sobolewski, Wolfgang Domcke, Cody W. Schlenker
We demonstrate chemical tuning and laser-driven control of intermolecular H atom abstraction from protic solvent molecules. Using multipulse ultrafast pump-push-probe transient absorption (TA) spectroscopy, we monitor hydrogen abstraction by a functionalized heptazine (Hz) from substituted phenols in condensed-phase hydrogen-bonded complexes. Hz is the monomer unit of the ubiquitous organic polymeric photocatalyst graphitic carbon nitride (g-C3N4). Previously, we reported that the Hz derivative 2,5,8-tris­(4-methoxyphenyl)-1,3,5,6,7,9,9b-heptaazaphenalene (TAHz) can photochemically abstract H atoms from water, in addition to exhibiting photocatalytic activity for H2 evolution matching that of g-C3N4 in aqueous suspensions. In the present work, we combine ultrafast multipulse TA spectroscopy with predictive wave function-based ab initio electronic-structure calculations to explore the role of mixed nπ*/ππ* upper excited states in directing H atom abstraction from hydroxylic compounds. We use an ultraviolet (365 nm) laser pulse to photoexcite TAHz to a bright upper excited state, and, after a relaxation period of roughly 6 ps, we use a near-infrared (NIR) (1150 nm) pulse to “push” the chromophore from the long-lived S1 state to a higher-lying excited state. When phenol is present, the NIR push induces a persistent decrease (ΔΔOD) in the S1 TA signal magnitude, indicating an impulsively driven change in photochemical branching ratios. In the presence of substituted phenols with electron-donating moieties, the magnitude of ΔΔOD diminishes markedly due to the increased excited-state reactivity of these complexes that accompanies the cathodic shift in phenol oxidation potential. In the latter case, H atom abstraction proceeds unaided by additional energy from the push pulse. These results reveal new insight into branching mechanisms among unreactive locally excited states and reactive intermolecular charge-transfer states. They also suggest molecular design strategies for functionalizing aza-aromatics to drive important photoreactions, such as H atom abstraction from water. More generally, this study demonstrates an avidly desired achievement in the field of photochemistry, rationally redirecting excited-state reactivity with light.