Efficiencies of Photoinduced Electron-Transfer Reactions: Role of the Marcus Inverted Region in Return Electron Transfer within Geminate Radical-Ion Pairs

Ian R. Gould, Deniz Ege, Jacques E. Moser, Samir Farid

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In photoinduced electron-transfer processes the primary step is conversion of the electronic energy of an excited state into chemical energy retained in the form of a redox (geminate radical-ion) pair (A + D → A/D). In polar solvents, separation of the geminate pair occurs with formation of free radical ions in solution. The quantum yields of product formation, from reactions of either the free ions, or of the geminate pair, are often low, however, due to the return electron transfer reaction (A/D,+ → A + D), an energy-wasting step that competes with the useful reactions of the ion pair. The present study was undertaken to investigate the parameters controlling the rates of these return electron transfer reactions. Quantum yields of free radical ion formation were measured for ion pairs formed upon electron-transfer quenching of the first excited singlet states of cyanoanthracenes by simple aromatic hydrocarbon donors in aceonitrile at room temperature. The free-ion yields are determined by the competition between the rates of separation and return electron transfer. By assuming a constant rate of separation, the rates of the return electron transfer process are obtained. These highly exothermic return electron transfer reactions (-ΔG-et = 2-3 eV) were found to be strongly dependent on the reaction exothermicity. The electron-transfer rates showed a marked decrease (ca. 2 orders of magnitude in this -ΔG-et range) with increasing exothermicity. This effect represents a clear example of the Marcus “inverted region”. Semiquantum mechanical electron-transfer theories were used to analyze the data quantitatively. The electron-transfer rates were found also to depend upon the degree of charge delocalization within the ions of the pair, which is attributed to variations in the solvent reorganization energy and electronic coupling matrix element. Accordingly, mostly on the basis of redox potentials, one can vary the quantum yield of free-ion formation from a few percent to values approaching unity. Use of a strong donor with a strong acceptor to induce reactions based on electron transfer is likely to be inefficient because of the fast return electron transfer in the resulting low-energy ion pair. A system with the smallest possible driving force for the initial charge-separation reaction results in a high-energy, and therefore long-lived ion pair, which allows the desired processes to occur more efficiently. The use of an indirect path based on secondary electron transfer, a concept called “cosensitization”, results in efficient radical-ion formation even when the direct path results in a very low quantum yield.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4290-4301
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jan 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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