Mechanistic origin of the vibrational coherence accompanying the photoreaction of biomimetic molecular switches

Jérémie Léonard, Igor Schapiro, Julien Briand, Stefania Fusi, Riccardo Rossi Paccani, Massimo Olivucci, Stefan Haacke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The coherent photoisomerization of a chromophore in condensed phase is a rare process in which light energy is funneled into specific molecular vibrations during electronic relaxation from the excited to the ground state. In this work, we employed ultrafast spectroscopy and computational methods to investigate the molecular origin of the coherent motion accompanying the photoisomerization of indanylidene-pyrroline (IP) molecular switches. UV/Vis femtosecond transient absorption gave evidence for an excited- and ground-state vibrational wave packet, which appears as a general feature of the IP compounds investigated. In close resemblance to the coherent photoisomerization of rhodopsin, the sudden onset of a far-red-detuned and rapidly blue-shifting photoproduct signature indicated that the population arriving on the electronic ground state after nonadiabatic decay through the conical intersection (CI) is still very focused in the form of a vibrational wave packet. Semiclassical trajectories were employed to investigate the reaction mechanism. Their analysis showed that coupled double-bond twisting and ring inversions, already populated during the excited-state reactive motion, induced periodic changes in π-conjugation that modulate the ground-state absorption after the non-adiabatic decay. This prediction further supports that the observed ground-state oscillation results from the reactive motion, which is in line with a biomimetic, coherent photoisomerization scenario. The IP compounds thus appear as a model system to investigate the mechanism of mode-selective photomechanical energy transduction. The presented mechanism opens new perspectives for energy transduction at the molecular level, with applications to the design of efficient molecular devices. Coherent photoswitching: Wavepackets in both excited and ground states are identified as a remarkable property of the rhodopsin-mimicking indanylidene-pyrroline (IP) molecular switches. Simulations predict that pronounced out-of-plane motions triggered in the excited state modulate the π-orbital overlap across the twisted CïC bond after decay to the ground state. The ensuing modulations in the S 0-S1 transition energy are held responsible for the observed oscillations (see figure).

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)15296-15304
Number of pages9
JournalChemistry - A European Journal
Issue number48
StatePublished - 26 Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • ab initio calculations
  • conical intersections
  • isomerization
  • molecular dynamics
  • time- resolved spectroscopy

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • Organic Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Mechanistic origin of the vibrational coherence accompanying the photoreaction of biomimetic molecular switches'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this