Triplet states of the nonlinear optical chromophore DCM in single crystals of potassium hydrogen phthalate and their relationship to single-molecule dark states

Antonio Barbon, Eric D. Bott, Marina Brustolon, Marianna Fabris, Bart Kahr, Werner Kaminsky, Philip J. Reid, Susanna M. Wong, Kristin L. Wustholz, Roberto Zanré

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Single-molecule dark states are often attributed to photoexcited triplets with scant evidence of the participation of paramagnetic molecules. The photodynamics of blinking single molecules of 4-dicyanomethylene-2-methyl-6-p- dimethylaminostyryl-4H-pyran (DCM) in crystals of potassium hydrogen phthalate (KAP) were compared with the lifetimes of DCM triplet states, likewise in KAP, whose zero-field splitting (ZFS) tensors were fully characterized by time-resolved electron paramagnetic resonance (TR-EPR) spectroscopy. Luminescent mixed crystals of KAP were grown from solutions containing 10-4 -10-9 M DCM, a model optically nonlinear chromophore. The luminescent dye was localized in the {111} crystalline growth sectors. The photoexcited triplets states of DCM in the heavily dyed (10-4 M) crystals were analyzed by TR-EPR spectroscopy. The photoexcited singlet states of DCM in lightly dyed crystals (10-9 M) were analyzed by single-molecule microscopy. Large blue shifts in the absorption and emission spectra of DCM in KAP were interpreted as a consequence of protonation at the dimethylamino nitrogen atom, an assignment supported by calculations of the zero-field splitting (ZFS) tensors of molecules in their triplet states. Experimental ZFS tensors with eigenvalues comparable to those of the computed tensors were determined from the angular dependence of the EPR spectra of DCMH+ triplets within KAP single crystals with respect to the applied magnetic field. Data from individual growth sectors failed to show magnetically equivalent site occupancies, evidence of the kinetic ordering during growth. The intermittent fluorescence of individual chromophores was analyzed. The distributions of on(off) times were characterized by distributed rates fit to power laws. The lifetime of the triplet states was analyzed from the time decay of the EPR signals between 100 and 165 K. The data were well fit with a single time constant for the signal decay, a result wholly inconsistent with the blinking of single molecules with off times commonly of tens of seconds. Triplet decay was extrapolated to ∼25 μs at room temperature. Therefore, the assumption that single-molecule dark states originate with triplet excited states is not sustainable for single DCM molecules in KAP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11548-11557
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number32
StatePublished - Aug 19 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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