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J Chem Phys. 2013 Apr 7;138(13):134306. doi: 10.1063/1.4798642.

Photo-induced isomerization of ethylene-bridged azobenzene explored by ab initio based non-adiabatic dynamics simulation: a comparative investigation of the isomerization in the gas and solution phases.

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Key Laboratory of Theoretical and Computational Photochemistry, Ministry of Education, College of Chemistry, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China.


Azobenzene is one of the most widely used photoactive units and recently an ethylene-bridged azobenzene (BAB) was reported to have greatly enhanced conversion efficiency, quantum yield, and other favorable properties. As the first step towards exploring its photo-switchable character in real systems, we report here a systematic study on the photoisomerization dynamics between trans (E) and cis (Z) isomers in the gas phase and the CH3OH solution, using ab initio based surface hopping and molecular dynamics, which is the first report of dynamics simulation to reveal the environmental effects on BAB photoreactions. Results show that while the relatively faster S1 relaxation of the photo-induced E → Z process is only mildly affected by the solvent effect, the relatively slower S1 relaxation of the reverse reaction becomes even slower in the solution compared to the gas phase. The subsequent S0 dynamics from the conical intersection between S1 and S0 (CI_E) to Z is accelerated in solution compared to the gas phase because of avoided re-crossing to the S1 state, while the S0 dynamics from the conical intersection between S1 and S0 (CI_Z) to E are basically the same in both phases. Overall, the solvent effect was found to enhance the back-and-forth photo-switch efficiency between the Z and E isomers compared to the gas phase, while the quantum yields are reduced. But the solution yields of both the forward and backward photoreactions are still around 0.4. Therefore, BAB may have good photo-responsive properties if used as a photoactive unit in real systems. These results will facilitate future experimental and theoretical studies in this area to help design new azobenzene derivatives as photoactive units in biological processes, nanoscale devices, and photo-responsive materials.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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