Experimental and computational exploration of ground and excited state properties of highly strained ruthenium terpyridine complexes.
Dissociative electron transfer reactions are prevalent in one-electron reduced aryl halides; however, calculations applied to charge-transfer excited states of metal complexes suggest that this reaction would be strongly endergonic unless attention is paid to specific structural details. In this current study, we explore the effect of introducing intramolecular strain into a series of halogenated ruthenium(II) polypyridyls. Parent [Ru(tpy)2](2+) (1) (tpy = 2,2':6',2″-terpyridine) is compared with two complexes, [Ru(6,6″-Br2-tpy)(tpy)](2+) (2) and [Ru(6,6″-Br2-tpy)2](2+) (3) (6,6″-Br2-tpy = 6,6″-dibromo-tpy) that incorporate interligand van der Waals strain derived from the large halogen substituents. DFT calculations and the crystal structure of 3 show how this strain distorts the geometry of 3 as compared to 1. Time-dependent DFT calculations are used to explain the effect of this strain on electronic absorption spectra where, in particular, a transition observed in 3 is attenuated in 2 and absent in 1 and heralds interligand charge transfer mediated by the halogen substituent. Ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy reveals coherent vibrational dynamics particularly in 3 but also in 2 that is interpreted as reflecting heavy-atom motion. Surprisingly, in spite of the additional strain, the excited-state lifetime of 3 is observed to be approximately a factor of 6 longer than 2. Constrained-DFT calculations show that while the excited behavior of 2 is similar to 1, the strain-induced geometric distortions in 3 cause a nesting of excited state triplet surfaces resulting in a longer excited state lifetime. This may afford the additional time needed to engage in photochemistry, and kinetic evidence is observed for the breaking of a C-Br bond in 3 and formation of a contact ion pair state.