journal contributionposted on 2021-08-03, 21:13 authored by Carl Jacky Saint-Louis, David J. Warner, Katie S. Keane, Melody D. Kelley, Connor M. Meyers, Silas C. Blackstock
Azobenzenes appended with a redox-active arylamino group (redox auxiliary, RA) are prepared and shown to undergo fast, complete, and catalytic Z→E azo isomerization upon electron loss from the RA unit of the azobenzene. The RA-azo structures can be reversibly (E→Z→E)n cycled by sequential photo- and electrostimulation. Due to the robust nature of the RA•+-azo radical cation chain carrying species, initiation of electron transfer (ET) catalysis occurs at low levels (1.0–0.04 mol %) of catalytic loading and is effective even at Z-RA-azo concentrations of 10–4–10–5 M, yielding TONs (turnover numbers) of 100–2300 under such dilute conditions. The RA-azo Z→E conversion is demonstrated using chemical oxidation (redox switching), electrochemical oxidation (electro switching), and photochemical oxidation (photoredox switching). The Z→E acceleration is shown to be at least 2 × 109-fold for RA-azo 5. DFT calculations on methyl yellow suggest that a N-centered radical cation of the RA group stabilizes the Z→E N–N twist transition state of the RA•+-azo, yielding a large reduction in the barrier for RA•+-azo compared to neutral RA-azo. The RA-azo structure class has nanomechanical features that can be toggled with photo- and electrostimulation, the latter offering a quick switch for complete Z→E conversion.