Tuning the Electronic Structure of Fe(II) Polypyridines via Donor Atom and Ligand Scaffold Modifications: A Computational Study

Fe­(II) polypyridines are an important class of pseudo-octahedral metal complexes known for their potential applications in molecular electronic switches, data storage and display devices, sensors, and dye-sensitized solar cells. Fe­(II) polypyridines have a d6 electronic configuration and pseudo-octahedral geometry and can therefore possess either a high-spin (quintet) or a low-spin (singlet) ground state. In this study, we investigate a series of complexes based on [Fe­(tpy)2]2+ (tpy = 2,2′;6′,2″-terpyridine) and [Fe­(dcpp)2]2+ (dcpp = 2,6-bis­(2-carboxypyridyl)­pyridine). The ligand field strength in these complexes is systematically tuned by replacing the central pyridine with five-membered (N-heterocyclic carbene, pyrrole, furan) or six-membered (aryl, thiazine-1,1-dioxide, 4-pyrone) moieties. To determine the impact of ligand substitutions on the relative energies of metal-centered states, the singlet, triplet, and quintet states of the Fe­(II) complexes were optimized in water (PCM) using density functional theory at the B3LYP+D2 level with 6-311G* (nonmetals) and SDD (Fe) basis sets. It was found that the dcpp ligand scaffold allows for a more ideal octahedral coordination environment in comparison to the tpy ligand scaffold. The presence of six-membered central rings also allows for a more ideally octahedral coordination environment relative to five-membered central rings, regardless of the ligand scaffold. We find that the ligand field strength in the Fe­(II) polypyridines can be tuned by altering the donor atom identity, with C donor atoms providing the strongest ligand field.