Two-Photon Transitions in Quadrupolar and Branched Chromophores: Experiment and Theory
A combined experimental and theoretical study is conducted on a series of model compounds in order to assess the combined role of branching and charge symmetry on absorption, photoluminescence, and two-photon absorption (TPA) properties. The main issue of this study is to examine how branching of quadrupolar chomophores can lead to different consequences as compared to branching of dipolar chromophores. Hence, three structurally related π-conjugated quadrupolar chromophores symmetrically substituted with donor end groups and one branched structure built from the assembly of three quadrupolar branches via a common donor moiety are used as model compounds. Their photophysical properties are studied using UV−vis spectroscopy, and the TPA spectra are determined through two-photon excited fluorescence experiments using femtosecond pulses in the 500−1000 nm range. Experimental studies are complemented by theoretical calculations. The applied theoretical methodology is based on time-dependent density functional theory, the Frenkel exciton model, and analysis in terms of the natural transition orbitals of relevant electronic states. Theory reveals that a symmetrical intramolecular charge transfer from the terminal donating groups to the middle of the molecule takes place in all quadrupolar chromophores upon photoexcitation. In contrast, branching via a central electron-donating triphenylamine moiety breaks the quadrupolar symmetry of the branches. Consequently, all Frank−Condon excited states have significant asymmetric multidimensional charge-transfer character upon excitation. Subsequent vibrational relaxation of the branched chromophore in the excited state leads to a localization of the excitation and fluorescence stemming from a single branch. As opposed to what was earlier observed when dipolar chromophores are branched via the same common electron-donating moiety, we find only a slight enhancement of the maximum TPA response of the branched compound with respect to an additive contribution of its quadrupolar branches. In contrast, substantial modifications of the spectral shape are observed. This is attributed to the subtle interplay of interbranch electronic coupling and asymmetry caused by branching.