Next Generation Cuprous Phenanthroline MLCT Photosensitizer Featuring Cyclohexyl Substituents

A new long-lived, visible-light-absorbing homoleptic Cu(I) metal-to-ligand charge transfer (MLCT) photosensitizer, [Cu(dchtmp)2]PF6 (dchtmp = 2,9-dicyclohexyl-3,4,7,8-tetramethyl-1,10-phenanthroline), has been synthesized, structurally characterized, and evaluated in terms of its molecular photophysics, electrochemistry, and electronic structure. Static and time-resolved transient absorption (TA) and photoluminescence (PL) spectroscopy measured on the title compound in CH2Cl2 (τ = 2.6 μs, ΦPL = 5.5%), CH3CN (τ = 1.5 μs, ΦPL = 2.6%), and THF (τ = 2.0 μs, ΦPL = 3.7%) yielded impressive photophysical metrics even when dissolved in Lewis basic solvents. The combined static spectroscopic data along with ultrafast TA experiments revealed that the pseudo-Jahn–Teller distortion and intersystem crossing dynamics in the MLCT excited state displayed characteristics of being sterically arrested throughout its evolution. Electrochemical and static PL data illustrate that [Cu(dchtmp)2]PF6 is a potent photoreductant (−1.77 V vs Fc+/0 in CH3CN) equal to or greater than all previously investigated homoleptic Cu(I) diimine complexes. Although we successfully prepared the cyclopentyl analog dcptmp (2,9-dicyclopentyl-3,4,7,8-tetramethyl-1,10-phenanthroline) using the same C–C radical coupling photochemistry as dchtmp, the corresponding Cu(I) complex could not be isolated due to the steric hindrance presented at the metal center. Ultimately, the successful preparation of [Cu(dchtmp)2]+ represents a major step forward for the design and discovery of novel earth-abundant photosensitizers made possible through a newly conceived ligand synthetic strategy.

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