Conformational gating of long distance electron transfer through wire-like bridges in donor-bridge-acceptor molecules

W. B. Davis, M. A. Ratner, M. R. Wasielewski*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

235 Scopus citations


A series of five donor-bridge-acceptor (DBA) molecules in which the donor is tetracene, the acceptor is pyromellitimide, and the bridge molecules are oligo-p-phenylenevinylenes (OPV) of increasing length has been shown to undergo electron transfer (ET) by means of two mechanisms. When the bridge is short, strongly distance dependent superexchange dynamics dominates, whereas when the bridge is longer, bridge-assisted hopping dynamics prevails. The latter mechanism results in relatively soft distance dependence for ET in which the OPV oligomers act effectively as molecular wires. We now report studies on the critical influence that bridge dynamics have on electron transfer through these oligomers. The temperature dependence of the charge separation (CS) rates in all five molecules does not appear to obey the predictions of standard ET theories based upon the Condon approximation. All five molecules show behavior consistent with CS being "gated" by torsional motion between the tetracene donor and the first bridge phenyl ring. This is based on the near equivalence of the CS activation energies measured for all five molecules with the frequency of a known vibrational mode in 5-phenyltetracene. In the molecule containing a trans-stilbene bridge, a competition occurs between the tetracene-phenyl torsional motion and one that occurs between the vinyl group and the phenyls linked to it. This results in complex temperature-dependent CS that exhibits both activated and negatively activated regimes. The charge recombination (CR) reactions within the molecules which have the two shortest bridges, namely phenyl and trans-stilbene, show a weaker dependence on these molecular motions. The three molecules with the longest bridges all display complex temperature dependencies in both their rates of CS and CR, most likely because of the complex torsional motions, which arise from the multiple phenyl-vinyl linkages. The data show that long-distance electron transfer and therefore wire-like behavior within conjugated bridge molecules depend critically on these low-frequency torsional motions. Molecular device designs that utilize such bridges will need to address these issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7877-7886
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number32
StatePublished - Oct 8 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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