Chemistry Faculty Publications

Document Type



The photochemistry of a new photoaffinity labeling (PAL) agent, 5-azido-2-(N,N-diethylamino)pyridine, was studied in aprotic and protic solvents using femtosecond-to-microsecond transient absorption and product analysis, in conjunction with ab initio multiconfigurational and multireference quantum chemical calculations. The excited singlet SI state is spectroscopically dark, whereas photoexcitation to higher-lying singlet excited S-2 and S-3 states drives the photochemical reaction toward a barrierless ultrafast relaxation path via two conical intersections to S-1, where N-2 elimination leads to the formation of the closed-shell singlet nitrene. The singlet nitrene undergoes intersystem crossing (ISC) to the triplet nitrene in aprotic and protic solvents as well as protonation to form the nitrenium ion. The ISC rate constants in aprotic solvents increase with solvent polarity, displaying a "direct" gap effect, whereas an "inverse" gap effect is observed in protic solvents. Transient absorption actinometry experiments suggest that a solvent-dependent fraction from 20% to 50% of nitrenium ions is generated on a time scale of a few tens of picoseconds. The closed-shell singlet and triplet nitrene are separated by a small energy gap in protic solvents. As a result, the unreactive triplet state nitrene undergoes delayed, thermally activated reverse ISC to reform the reactive closed-shell singlet nitrene, which subsequently protonates, forming the remaining fraction of nitrenium ions. The product studies demonstrate that the resulting nitrenium ion stabilized by the electron-donating 4-amino group yields the final cross-linked product with high, almost quantitative efficiency. The enhanced PAL function of this new azide with respect to the widely applied 4-amino-3-nitrophenyl azide is discussed.

Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal Of The American Chemical Society


Start Page No.


End Page No.


Included in

Chemistry Commons