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Nonlinear optical response of photochromic azobenzene-functionalized self-assembled monolayers
(2015)

The combination of photochromic and nonlinear optical (NLO) properties of azobenzene-functionalized self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) constitutes an intriguing step towards novel photonic and optoelectronic devices. By utilizing the second-order NLO process of second harmonic generation (SHG), supported by density-functional theory and correlated wave function method calculations, we demonstrate that the photochromic interface provides the necessary prerequisites en route towards possible future technical applications: we find a high NLO contrast on the order of 16% between the switching states. These are furthermore accessible reversibly and with high efficiencies in terms of cross sections on the order of 10−18 cm2 for both photoisomerization reactions, i.e., drivable by means of low-power LED light sources. Finally, both photostationary states (PSSs) are thermally stable at ambient conditions.

Nonlinear optical response of photochromic azobenzene-functionalized self-assembled monolayers
(2015)

Utilizing suitable precursor molecules, a thermally activated and surface-assisted synthesis results in the formation of defect-free graphene nanoribbons (GNRs), which exhibit electronic properties that are not present in extended graphene. Most importantly, they have a band gap in the order of a few electron volts, depending on the nanoribbon width. In this study, we investigate the electronic structure changes during the formation of GNRs, nitrogen-doped (singly and doubly N-doped) as well as non-N-doped chevron-shaped CGNRs on Au(111). Thus we determine the optical gaps of the precursor molecules, the intermediate nonaromatic polymers, and finally the aromatic GNRs, using high-resolution electron energy loss spectroscopy and density functional theory calculations. As expected, we find no influence of N-doping on the size of the optical gaps. The gap of the precursor molecules is around 4.5 eV. Polymerization leads to a reduction of the gap to a value of 3.2 eV due to elongation and thus enhanced delocalization. The CGNRs exhibit a band gap of 2.8 eV, thus the gap is further reduced in the nanoribbons, since they exhibit an extended delocalized pi-electron system.

The cis-trans isomerisation of N-benzylideneaniline (NBA) and derivatives containing a central C=N bond has been investigated experimentally and theoretically. Eight different NBA molecules in three different solvents were irradiated to enforce a photochemical trans (hv) -> cis isomerisation and the kinetics of the thermal backreaction cis (Delta)-> trans were determined by NMR spectroscopy measurements in the temperature range between 193 and 288 K. Theoretical calculations using density functional theory and Eyring transition-state theory were carried out for 12 different NBA species in the gas phase and three different solvents to compute thermal isomerisation rates of the thermal back reaction. While the computed absolute rates are too large, they reveal and explain experimental trends. Time-dependent density functional theory provides optical spectra for vertical transitions and excitation energy differences between trans and cis forms. Together with isomerisation rates, the latter can be used to identify "optimal switches" with good photochromicity and reasonable thermal stability.

Nonlinear optical response of photochromic azobenzene-functionalized self-assembled monolayers
(2015)

The combination of photochromic and nonlinear optical (NLO) properties of azobenzene-functionalized self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) constitutes an intriguing step towards novel photonic and optoelectronic devices. By utilizing the second-order NLO process of second harmonic generation (SHG), supported by density-functional theory and correlated wave function method calculations, we demonstrate that the photochromic interface provides the necessary prerequisites en route towards possible future technical applications: we find a high NLO contrast on the order of 16% between the switching states. These are furthermore accessible reversibly and with high efficiencies in terms of cross sections on the order of 10(-18) cm(2) for both photoisomerization reactions, i.e., drivable by means of low-power LED light sources. Finally, both photostationary states (PSSs) are thermally stable at ambient conditions.

Based on the analysis of optical absorption spectra, it has recently been speculated that the excitonic coupling between individual azobenzene-functionalized alkanethiols arranged in a self-assembled monolayer (SAM) on a gold surface could be strong enough to hinder collective trans-cis isomerization-on top of steric hindrance [Gahl et al., J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2010, 132, 1831]. Using models of SAMs of increasing complexity (dimer, linear N-mers, and two-dimensionally arranged N-mers) and density functional theory on the (TD-) B3LYP/6-31G* level, we determine optical absorption spectra, the nature and magnitude of excitonic couplings, and the corresponding spectral shifts. It is found that at inter-monomer distances of about 20 angstrom and above, TD-B3LYP excitation frequencies (and signal intensities) can be well described by the frequently used point-dipole approximation. Further, calculated blue shifts in optical absorption spectra account for the experimental observations made for azobenzene/gold SAMs, and hint to the fact that they can indeed be responsible for reduced switching probability in densely packed self-assembled structures.

Improving the photochemical properties of molecular photoswitches is crucial for the development of light-responsive systems in materials and life sciences. ortho-Fluoroazobenzenes are a new class of rationally designed photochromic azo compounds with optimized properties, such as the ability to isomerize with visible light only, high photoconversions, and unprecedented robust bistable character. Introducing sigma-electron-withdrawing F atoms ortho to the N=N unit leads to both an effective separation of the n -> pi* bands of the E and Z isomers, thus offering the possibility of using these two transitions for selectively inducing E/Z iso-merizations, and greatly enhanced thermal stability of the Z isomers. Additional para-electron-withdrawing groups (EWGs) work in concert with ortho-F atoms, giving rise to enhanced separation of the n -> pi* transitions. A comprehensive study of the effect of substitution on the key photochemical properties of ortho-fluoroazobenzenes is reported herein. In particular, the position, number, and nature of the EWGs have been varied, and the visible light photoconversions, quantum yields of isomerization, and thermal stabilities have been measured and rationalized by DFT calculations.

Motivated by recent atomic manipulation experiments, we report quantum chemical calculations for chemi- and physisorption minima of chlorobenzene on the Si(111)-7x7 surface. A density functional theory cluster approach is applied, using the B3LYP hybrid functional alongside Grimme's empirical dispersion corrections (D3). We were able to identify chemisorption sites of binding energies of 1.6 eV and physisorption energies of 0.6 eV, both in encouraging agreement with the trend of experimental data. The cluster approach opens up the possibility of a first-principles based dynamical description of STM manipulation experiments on this system, the interpretation of which involves both the chemi- and physisorbed states. However, we found that special care has to be taken regarding the choice of clusters, basis sets, and the evaluation of the dispersion corrections.

Incorporating photochromic molecules into organic/inorganic hybrid materials may lead to photoresponsive systems. In such systems, the second-order nonlinear properties can be controlled via external stimulation with light at an appropriate wavelength. By creating photochromic molecular switches containing self-assembled monolayers on Si(111), we can demonstrate efficient reversible switching, which is accompanied by a pronounced modulation of the nonlinear optical (NLO) response of the system. The concept of utilizing functionalized photoswitchable Si surfaces could be a way for the generation of two-dimensional NLO switching materials, which are promising for applications in photonic and optoelectronic devices.