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Open AccessArticle

Phenylazopyridine as Switch in Photochemical Reactions. A Detailed Computational Description of the Mechanism of Its Photoisomerization

Departament de Química Física i Inorgànica, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Carrer Marcel·lí Domingo 1, 43007 Tarragona, Spain
Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA), Passeig Lluís Companys 23, 08010 Barcelona, Spain
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Materials 2017, 10(12), 1342;
Received: 20 September 2017 / Revised: 6 November 2017 / Accepted: 16 November 2017 / Published: 23 November 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Photoswitchable Materials)
Azo compounds are organic photochromic systems that have the possibility of switching between cis and trans isomers under irradiation. The different photochemical properties of these isomers make azo compounds into good light-triggered switches, and their significantly different geometries make them very interesting as components in molecular engines or mechanical switches. For instance, azo ligands are used in coordination complexes to trigger photoresponsive properties. The light-induced trans-to-cis isomerization of phenylazopyridine (PAPy) plays a fundamental role in the room-temperature switchable spin crossover of Ni-porphyrin derivatives. In this work, we present a computational study developed at the SA-CASSCF/CASPT2 level (State Averaged Complete Active Space Self Consistent Field/CAS second order Perturbation Theory) to elucidate the mechanism, up to now unknown, of the cis–trans photoisomerization of 3-PAPy. We have analyzed the possible reaction pathways along its lowest excited states, generated by excitation of one or two electrons from the lone pairs of the N atoms of the azo group (nazoπ*2 and nazo2π*2 states), from a π delocalized molecular orbital (ππ* state), or from the lone pair of the N atom of the pyridine moiety (npyπ* state). Our results show that the mechanism proceeds mainly along the rotation coordinate in both the nazoπ* and ππ* excited states, although the nazo2π*2 state can also be populated temporarily, while the npyπ* does not intervene in the reaction. For rotationally constrained systems, accessible paths to reach the cis minimum along planar geometries have also been located, again on the nazoπ* and ππ* potential energy surfaces, while the nazo2π*2 and npyπ* states are not involved in the reaction. The relative energies of the different paths differ from those found for azobenzene in a previous work, so our results predict some differences between the reactivities of both compounds. View Full-Text
Keywords: phenylazopyridine; photochromism; photoisomerization; CASSCF/CASPT2; reaction mechanism phenylazopyridine; photochromism; photoisomerization; CASSCF/CASPT2; reaction mechanism
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MDPI and ACS Style

Casellas, J.; Alcover-Fortuny, G.; De Graaf, C.; Reguero, M. Phenylazopyridine as Switch in Photochemical Reactions. A Detailed Computational Description of the Mechanism of Its Photoisomerization. Materials 2017, 10, 1342.

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