Control of photoconversion yield in unidirectional photomolecular motors by push-pull substituents

Palas Roy, Andy S. Sardjan, Wojciech Danowski, Wesley R. Browne, Ben L. Feringa, Stephen R. Meech

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Molecular motors based on the overcrowded alkene motif convert light energy into unidirectional mechanical motion through an excited state isomerization reaction. The realization of experimental control over conversion efficiency in these molecular motors is an important goal. Here, we combine the synthesis of a novel “push–pull” overcrowded alkene motor with photophysical characterization by steady state and ultrafast time-resolved electronic spectroscopy. We show that tuning of the charge transfer character in the excited state has a dramatic effect on the photoisomerization yield, enhancing it to near unity in nonpolar solvents while largely suppressing it in polar solvents. This behavior is explained through reference to solvent- and substituent-dependent potential energy surfaces and their effect on conical intersections to the ground state. These observations offer new routes to the fine control of motor efficiency and introduce additional degrees of freedom in the synthesis and exploitation of light-driven molecular motors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19849–19855
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number36
Early online date30 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sep 2023

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