Functional group substituents are a ubiquitous tool in ground-state organic chemistry often employed to fine-tune chemical properties and obtain desired chemical reaction outcomes. Their effect on photoexcited electronic states, however, remains poorly understood. To help build an intuition for these effects, we have studied ethylene, substituted with electron acceptor (cyano) and/or electron donor (methoxy) substituents, both theoretically and experimentally: using ab initio quantum molecular dynamics and time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy. Our results show the consistent trend that photo-induced ethylenic dynamics is primarily localized to the carbon with the greater electron density. For doubly substituted ethylenes, the trend is additive when both substituents are located on opposite carbons, whereas the methoxy group (in concert with steric effects) dominates when both substituents are located on a single carbon atom. These results point to the development of rules for structure–dynamics correlations; in this case, a novel mechanistic ultrafast photochemistry for conjugated carbon chains employing long-established chemical concepts.
Directing excited state dynamics via chemical substitution: A systematic study of -donors and -acceptors at a carbon–carbon double bond
Katherine R. Herperger, Anja Röder, Ryan J. MacDonell, Andrey E. Boguslavskiy, Anders B. Skov, Albert Stolow, Michael S. Schuurman; Directing excited state dynamics via chemical substitution: A systematic study of -donors and -acceptors at a carbon–carbon double bond. J. Chem. Phys. 28 December 2020; 153 (24): 244307. https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0031689
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