Ultrafast photoisomerization of pinacyanol: Watching an excited state reaction transiting from barrier to barrierless forms
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Photoisomerization of 1,1′-diethyl-2,2′-carbocyanine iodide (pinacyanol) in alcohols was investigated by means of femtosecond time-resolved absorption spectroscopy. Only one out of two possible types of photoisomer was found. Viscosity-dependent kinetics indicate that the excited state dynamics consist of two parts, associated with a barrier-crossing observed in the blue side of stimulated emission (SE) and the barrierless isomerization observed in the red side of SE. These two processes occur sequentially. The blue barrier SE part is characterized by a decay lifetime (τ1, 5.2 ps in methanol) that is constant over the observed spectral region. Dependence of τ1 on solvent viscosity (η) is linear and follows Kramer's law for barrier-crossing reactions. The red barrierless part is faster and is characterized by a rise in time constants, which increases with the wavelength (τ2 λ, from 0.2 to 0.6 ps for 720-1000 nm range in methanol). τ2 λ depends on η as a fractional power function and follows BFO theory for barrierless photoisomerization. The overall photoisomerization rate is limited by the barrier-crossing rate, τ1 -1. A two-state two-mode model with a saddle-type of potential energy surface (PES) was used to explain the observed spectral dynamics. Along the stretching mode it is barrierless while along the torsion mode there is a very small barrier. As a result, the PES becomes ridge-like after displacement along the stretching coordinate. Comparing pinacyanol and 1,1′-diethyl-2,2′-cyanine iodide (1122C) with similar excited state lifetimes (5.2 vs. 4.9 ps) but quite different photoisomer quantum yields (QY, 3.6% vs. 26%, respectively), we conclude that excited state PES properties play the most important role in determining when the torsion mode couples with the stretching mode, and as a result the photoisomer QY.