Visible-Light Photoswitching by Azobenzazoles
Journal article, 2020
Three visible-light responsive photoswitches are reported, azobis(1-methyl-benzimidazole) (1), azobis(benzoxazole) (2) and azobis(benzothiazole) (3). Photostationary distributions are obtained upon irradiation with visible light comprising approximately 80 % of the thermally unstable isomer, with thermal half-lives up to 8 min and are mostly invariant to solvent. On protonation, compound 1H+ has absorption extending beyond 600 nm, allowing switching with yellow light, and a thermal half-life just under 5 minutes. The two isomers have significantly different pKa values, offering potential as a pH switch. The absorption spectra of 2 and 3 are insensitive to acid, although changes in the thermal half-life of 3 indicate more basic intermediates that significantly influence the thermal barrier to isomerization. These findings are supported by high-level ab initio calculations, which validate that protonation occurs on the ring nitrogen and that the Z isomer is more basic in all cases.