Influence of solvent on carbene intersystem crossing rates

Jin Wang, Jacek Kubicki, Huolei Peng, Matthew S. Platz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


The influence of coordinating solvents on singlet-to-triplet carbene intersystem crossing (ISC) rates has been studied with diphenylcarbene (DPC) and para-biphenyltrifluoromethylcarbene (BpCCF3) by using ultrafast time-resolved spectroscopy. DPC has a triplet ground state in all of the solvents considered, and the concentration of singlet carbene at equilibrium is too small to be measured. It is found that the lifetime of 1DPC is extended in acetonitrile, benzene, tetrahydrofuran, dichloromethane, and halobenzene solvents relative to cyclohexane. The solvent effect does not well correlate with bulk measures of solvent polarity. The singlet-triplet energy separation of BpCCF3 is close to zero. The data demonstrates that BpCCF3 has a triplet ground state in benzene, fluorobenzene, and hexafluorobenzene. Halogenated solvents are found to dramatically retard the rate of ISC in 1BpCCF3. We postulate that the empty p orbital of a singlet carbene coordinates with a nonbonding pair of electrons of a halogen atom of the solvent to form a pseudoylide solvent complex, stabilize the singlet carbene, and decrease the singlet-triplet (S-T) energy gap. The "golden rule" of radiationless transitions posits that the smaller the energy gap between the two states, the faster their rate of interconversion. To explain the apparent violation of the golden rule of radiationless transitions for the carbene ISC processes monitored in this study, we propose that the significantly different specific solvation of the singlet and triplet carbenes imposes a Franck-Condon-like factor on the ISC process. Those solvents that most solvate the singlet carbene will also have the greatest structural difference between singlet carbene-solvent complex and their triplet spin isomer-solvent complex, the smallest S-T gap, and the slowest ISC rate. Alternatively, one can propose that a highly solvated singlet carbene must desolvate prior to ISC, and that this requirement decelerates the radiationless transition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6604-6609
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 21 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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