Two-Photon Chromophores as Switches and Sensitizers

  • Elizabeth Boreham

Student thesis: Phd


Two-photon photo-activated functional molecules play key roles in a growing number of technological and biological applications as the availability of high powered, tuneable lasers increases. The development of new, strongly two-photon absorbing functional chromophores is key to the advancement of these technologies. A series of photoresponsive compounds including organic chromophores and transition metal coordination complexes were designed, synthesised and characterised by NMR, mass spectrometry, elemental analysis and X-ray crystallography. Photophysical characterisation of the compounds including electronic absorption spectroscopy, luminescence spectroscopy, luminescence lifetime studies and two-photon absorption (2PA) experiments were performed. Density functional theory (DFT) calculations were performed and supporting data are presented.Of particular interest is the use of photochromic materials to address the increasing demand for high-density data storage employing two-photon absorption for 3-dimensional control of excitation. Towards this, a series of four photochromic "push-pull" azobenzenes of donor-pie-acceptor structure containing a para-ethoxy donor substituent have been synthesized with varying strength of the acceptor group (para-NO2, CN, CO2Et, F). Kinetic studies of their one-photon photoisomerisation and thermal cis-trans isomerisation were performed in solution and in polymer films, and their non-linear two-photon trans-cis photoisomerisation was demonstrated. Luminescent metal centres offer the possibility of a fluorescent read-out mechanism for optical data storage, modulated by a photochromic ligand, which may quench fluorescence in one isomer and not the other. Two photochromic pyridyl azobenzene ligands were designed and synthesised and coordinated to Re(I), Pt(II) and Ru(II) polypridyl metal centres. The trans-cis photochromism of the ligands and complexes was investigated by one- and two-photon absorption. Luminescence modulation was demonstrated via photochromism of the coordinated ligand L2 for the Re(I) tricarbonyl bipyridyl complex ReL2 which displayed enhanced emission intensity in the cis form.2PA is also of interest for biological applications due to the longer, less damaging wavelengths used at which biological tissue is more transparent. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a non-invasive clinical treatment for cancers where a photosensitizer is optically excited to generate cytotoxic singlet oxygen, which kills cells in the area under irradiation. Platinum group transition metal complexes have been investigated for this purpose due to their strong 2PA properties and accessible low-lying triplet states, which make them efficient triplet-triplet energy transfer agents. A new cyclometallated Ir(III) complex bearing a fluorenyl phenanthroline ligand and a related bimetallic Ir(III)-Ru(II) complex were synthesised and assessed as two-photon singlet oxygen sensitizers. The monometallic Ir(III) complex was also shown to demonstrate PDT action by altering the morphology of C6 Glioma cells under 740 nm two-photon excitation.
Date of Award1 Aug 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorLouise Natrajan (Supervisor)


  • Photochromic
  • Photodynamic Therapy
  • Azobenzene

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