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J Am Chem Soc. 2012 Sep 26;134(38):16000-7. Epub 2012 Sep 14.

Reactivity-based detection of copper(II) ion in water: oxidative cyclization of azoaromatics as fluorescence turn-on signaling mechanism.

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Department of Chemistry, Indiana University, 800 East Kirkwood Avenue, Bloomington, Indiana 47405, United States.


An oxidative cyclization reaction transforms nonemissive azoanilines into highly fluorescent benzotriazoles. We have found that introduction of multiple electron-donating amino groups onto a simple o-(phenylazo)aniline platform dramatically accelerates its conversion to the emissive polycyclic product. Notably, this chemistry can be effected by μM-level concentrations of copper(II) ion in water (pH = 6-8) at room temperature to elicit >80-fold enhancement in the green emission at λ(em) = 530 nm. Comparative kinetic and electrochemical studies on a series of structural analogues have established that the accelerated reaction rates correlate directly with a systematic cathodic shift in the oxidation onset potential of the azo precursors. In addition, single-crystal X-ray crystallographic analysis on the most reactive derivative revealed the presence of a five-membered ring intramolecular hydrogen-bonding network. An enhanced contribution of the quinoid-type resonance in such conformation apparently facilitates the mechanistically required proton transfer step, which, in conjunction with electron transfer at lower oxidation potential, contributes to a rapid cyclization reaction triggered by copper(II) ion in water.

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