Ultrafast proton transfer dynamics of hydroxystilbene photoacids

Frederick D. Lewis*, Louise E. Sinks, Wilfried Weigel, Meledathu C. Sajimon, Elizabeth M. Crompton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The effects of 4-cyano and 3-cyano substituents on the spectroscopic properties and photoacidity of 3- and 4-hydroxystilbene have been investigated. In nonpolar solvents, the 3-hydroxycyanostilbenes have much longer singlet lifetimes and larger fluorescence quantum yields than do the 4-hydroxycyanostilbenes. The longer lifetimes of 3-hydroxystilbene and its cyano derivatives are attributed to a "meta effect" on the stilbene torsional barrier, similar to that previously observed for the aminostilbenes. The cyano substituent causes a marked increase in both ground state and excited-state acidity of the hydroxystilbenes in aqueous solution. The dynamics of excited-state proton transfer in methanol - water solution have been investigated by means of femtosecond time-resolved transient absorption spectroscopy. Assignment of the transient absorption spectra is facilitated by comparison to the spectra of the corresponding potassium salts of the conjugate bases and the methyl ethers, which do not undergo excited-state proton transfer. The 4-cyanohydroxystilbenes undergo excited-state proton transfer with rate constants of 5 × 10 11 s -1. These rate constants are comparable to the fastest that have been reported to date for a hydroxyaromatic photoacid and approach the theoretical limit for water-mediated proton transfer. The isotope effect for proton transfer in deuterated methanol-water is 1.3 ± 0.2, similar to the isotope effect for the dielectric response of water. The barrier for excited state double bond torsion of the conjugate bases is small for 4-cyano-4-hydroxystilbene but large for 4-cyano-3-hydroxystilbene. Thus the "meta effect" is observed for the singlet states of both the neutral and conjugate base.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2443-2451
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Issue number11
StatePublished - Mar 24 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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