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Photomodulation of Two-Dimensional Self-Assembly of Azobenzene–Hexa-peri-hexabenzocoronene–Azobenzene Triads

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journal contribution
posted on 2019-06-12, 00:00 authored by Ian Cheng-Yi Hou, Valentin Diez-Cabanes, Agostino Galanti, Michal Valášek, Marcel Mayor, Jérôme Cornil, Akimitsu Narita, Paolo Samorì, Klaus Müllen
Achieving exquisite control over self-assembly of functional polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and nanographene (NG) is essential for their exploitation as active elements in (nano)­technological applications. In the framework of our effort to leverage their functional complexity, we designed and synthesized two hexa-peri-hexabenzocoronene (HBC) triads, pAHA and oAHA, decorated with two light-responsive azobenzene moieties at the pseudo-para and ortho positions, respectively. Their photoisomerization in solution is demonstrated by UV–vis absorption. 1H NMR measurements of oAHA suggested 23% of Z-form can be obtained at a photostationary state with UV irradiation (366 nm). Scanning tunneling microscopy imaging revealed that the self-assembly of pAHA and oAHA at the solid–liquid interface between highly oriented pyrolytic graphite (HOPG) and their solution in 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene can be modulated upon light irradiation. This is in contrast to our previous work using HBC bearing a single azobenzene moiety, which did not show such photomodulation of the self-assembled structure. Upon E-Z isomerization both pAHA and oAHA displayed an increased packing density on the surface of graphite. Moreover, pAHA revealed a change of self-assembled pattern from an oblique unit cell to a dimer row rectangular crystal lattice whereas the assembly of oAHA retained a dimer row structure before and after light irradiation, yet with a modification of the inter-row molecular orientation. Molecular mechanics/molecular dynamics simulations validated the self-assembly patterns of pAHA and oAHA, comprising azobenzenes in their Z-forms. These results pave the way toward use of suitably functionalized large PAHs, as well as NGs, to develop photoswitchable devices.