Photochemical Sciences Ph.D. Dissertations


Ultrafast Photochemistry of Polyatomic Molecules Containing Labile Halogen Atoms in Solution

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Photochemical Sciences

First Advisor

Alexander Tarnovsky

Second Advisor

H. Peter Lu (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

John Cable (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Donald Deters (Committee Member)


Because breaking and making of chemical bonds lies at the heart of chemistry, this thesis focuses on dynamic studies of labile molecules in solutions using ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy. Specifically, my interest is two-fold: (i) novel reaction intermediates of polyhalogenated carbon, boron and phosphorus compounds; (ii) photophysics and photochemistry of labile copper(II) halide complexes. Excitation of CH2Br2, CHBr3, BBr3, and PBr3 into n(Br)σ*(X-Br) states, where X=C, B, or P, leads to direct photoisomerization with formation of isomers having Br-Br bonds as well as rupture of one of X-Br bonds with the formation of a Br atom and a polyatomic radical fragment, which subsequently recombine to form similar isomer products. Nonpolar solvation stabilizes the isomers, consistent with intrinsic reaction coordinate calculations of the isomer ground state potential energy surfaces at the density functional level of theory, and consequently, the involvement of these highly energetic species on chemically-relevant time scales needs to be taken into account. Monochlorocomplexes in methanol solutions promoted to the ligand-to-metal charge transfer (LMCT) excited state predominantly undergo internal conversion via back electron transfer, giving rise to vibrationally hot ground-state parent complexes. Copper-chloride homolitical bond dissociation yielding the solvated copper(I) and Cl- atom/solvent CT complexes constitutes a minor pathway. Insights into ligand substitution mechanisms were acquired by monitoring the recovery of monochloro complexes at the expense of two unexcited dichloro- and unsubstituted forms of Cu(II) complexes also present in the solution. Detailed description of ultrafast excited-state dynamics of CuCl42-complexes in acetonitrile upon excitation into all possible Ligand Field (LF) excited states and two most intense LMCT transitions is reported. The LF states were found to be nonreactive with lifetimes remarkably longer than those for copper(II) complexes studied so far, in particular, copper blue proteins. The highest 2A1 and lowest 2E LF states relax directly to the ground electronic state whereas the intermediate 2B1 LF state relaxes stepwise through the 2E state. The LMCT excited states are short-lived undergoing either ionic dissociation (CuCl3- + Cl-) or cascading relaxation through the manifold of vibrationally hot LF states to the ground state.