Although plants have efficiently captured energy from sunlight for millions of years, producing light-harvesting and energy storage devices based on photosynthesis is no easy task.
Now, a research team led by Makoto Fujita from the University of Tokyo and Tahei Tahara from the RIKEN Advanced Science Institute has found a simple way to mimic the initial stage of photosynthesis by mechanically trapping a guest molecule inside a cage structure1.
Prototypical artificial photosynthetic systems contain donor- and acceptor-type molecules. When light is absorbed by the donor, it becomes photo-excited—its electrons move to higher energy states. The acceptor group can receive and store these energetic electrons, but only if the donor and acceptor come together into what is known as an exciplex, or an excited state complex.
The difficulty is bringing together the donor and acceptor groups. An exciplex can form only if the two components are close enough and in the proper orientation during photo-excitation.
Fujita and Tahara’s team ensured exciplex formation by locking a photoactive donor molecule called bisanthracene inside a molecular cage acceptor. The self-assembled cage is highly water soluble as it contains six charged palladium atoms. The cage panels, however, are organic molecules and form a hydrophobic (water-repelling) pocket inside the cage when dissolved in water.
According to Jeremy Klosterman, the lead author of the study, the donor molecule bisanthracene is not soluble in water and, at high temperatures, is driven into the hydrophobic cage pocket. Once the solution cools, the bisanthracene is too large to exit the cage and remains trapped inside.
“Synthetically, our system is incredibly straightforward,” says Klosterman. “Simply mixing the host cage and the guest bisanthracene in water and heating causes the exciplex to self-assemble.”
Ultrafast laser spectroscopy of the host–guest complex found that the excited bisanthracene donor transferred the majority of its energy, 82%, to the exciplex state. Klosterman says the effective energy transfer is due to the extremely tight fit and strong interactions between the mechanically linked host and guest.
“This study helped us resolve an important question,” states Klosterman. Typically fluorescent molecules are non-emissive upon encapsulation by cages, but now they can infer that energy transfer into the host–guest exciplex state decreases the fluorescence lifetime.
By choosing a guest molecule that does not form an exciplex, the researchers have developed a new water-soluble fluorescent dye with a long lifetime—ideal for applications including biological sensing and imaging.
1. Klosterman, J.K., Iwamura, M., Tahara, T. & Fujita. M. Energy transfer in a mechanically trapped exciplex. Journal of the American Chemical Society 131, 9478–9479 (2009).
The corresponding authors for this highlight are based at the RIKEN Molecular Spectroscopy Laboratory and the School of Engineering, University of Tokyo
Agricultural insecticide contamination threatens U.S. surface water integrity at the national scale
06.12.2018 | Universität Koblenz-Landau
Improving hydropower through long-range drought forecasts
06.12.2018 | Schweizerischer Nationalfonds SNF
Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...
What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.
Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) succeed in important further development on the way to quantum Computers.
Quantum computers one day should be able to solve certain computing problems much faster than a classical computer. One of the most promising approaches is...
New Project SNAPSTER: Novel luminescent materials by encapsulating phosphorescent metal clusters with organic liquid crystals
Nowadays energy conversion in lighting and optoelectronic devices requires the use of rare earth oxides.
Scientists have discovered the first synthetic material that becomes thicker - at the molecular level - as it is stretched.
Researchers led by Dr Devesh Mistry from the University of Leeds discovered a new non-porous material that has unique and inherent "auxetic" stretching...
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
03.12.2018 | Event News
11.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
11.12.2018 | Materials Sciences
11.12.2018 | Information Technology