Hemithioindigo-based molecular motors are powered by nondamaging visible light and provide very fast directional rotations at ambient conditions. Their ground state energy profile has been probed in detail, but the crucial excited state processes are completely unknown so far. In addition, very fast processes in the ground state are also still elusive to date and thus knowledge of the whole operational mechanism remains to a large extent in the dark. In this work we elucidate the complete lightdriven rotation mechanism by a combination of multiscale broadband transient absorption measurements covering a time scale from fs to ms in conjunction with a high level theoretical description of the excited state. In addition to a full description of the excited state dynamics in the various time regimes, we also provide the first experimental evidence for the elusive fourth intermediate ground state of the original HTI motor. The fate of this intermediate also is followed directly proving complete unidirectionality for both 180°rotation steps. At the same time, we uncover the hitherto unknown involvement of an unproductive triplet state pathway, which slightly diminishes the quantum yield of the E to Z photoisomerization. A rate model analysis shows that increasing the speed of motor rotation is most effectively done by increasing the photoisomerization quantum yields instead of barrier reduction for the thermal ratcheting steps. Our findings are of crucial importance for improved future designs of any light-driven molecular motor in general to yield better efficiencies and applicability.
The maximum speed of light‐driven molecular motors is an important key‐property governing not only their overall performances but also many advanced functions. Currently, special emphasis lies on increasing the rate of unidirectional rotations to surpass natural systems and harness the full potential of artificial motors. Herein, we report a new molecular setup for a prospective light‐powered three‐step motor based on the hemithioindigo chromophore. Comprehensive quantum chemical treatment predicts a very low energy barrier for the only thermal ratcheting step in the unidirectional 360° rotation. Thus an ultrafast motion in the THz range could be possible with this motor at high light intensities and consequently a precise control of rotation speeds solely by light intensity variations could potentially be achieved. Experimental analyses using X‐ray crystallography and solution spectroscopy deliver first insights into the working mechanism and show that visible‐light photoswitching is feasible in both stable switching states. Additionally, significant alterations of the ground‐state energies can be induced by pH changes without hampering photoswitching capabilities.
The inclusion of solvent effects in the theoretical analysis of molecular processes becomes increasingly important. Currently, it is not feasible to directly include the solvent on the quantum level. We use an Ehrenfest approach to study the coupled time evolution of quantum dynamically treated solutes and classical solvents system. The classical dynamics of the solvent is coupled to the wavepacket dynamics of the solute and rotational and translational degrees of freedom of the solute are included classically. This allows quantum dynamics simulations for ultrafast processes that are decided by environment interactions without explicit separation of time scales. We show the application to the dissociation of ICN in liquid Ar as a proof of principal system and to the more applied example of uracil in water.
Attosecond extreme ultraviolet (XUV) and soft x-ray sources provide powerful new tools for studying ultrafast molecular dynamics with atomic, state, and charge specificity. In this report, we employ attosecond transient absorption spectroscopy (ATAS) to follow strong-field-initiated dynamics in vinyl bromide. Probing the Br M edge allows one to assess the competing processes in neutral and ionized molecular species. Using
non-adiabatic molecular dynamics, we simulate the neutral and cationic dynamics resulting from the interaction of the molecule with the strong field. Based on the dynamics results, the corresponding time-dependent XUV transient absorption spectra are calculated by applying high-level multi-reference methods. The state-resolved analysis obtained through the simulated dynamics and related spectral contributions enables a detailed and quantitative comparison with the experimental data. The main outcome of the interaction with the strong field is unambiguously the population of the first three cationic states,
. The first two show exclusively vibrational dynamics while the
state is characterized by an ultrafast dissociation of the molecule via C–Br bond rupture within 100 fs in 50% of the analyzed trajectories. The combination of the three simulated ionic transient absorption spectra is in excellent agreement with the experimental results. This work establishes ATAS in combination with high-level multi-reference simulations as a spectroscopic technique capable of resolving coupled non-adiabatic electronic-nuclear dynamics in photoexcited molecules with sub-femtosecond resolution.
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