Quantifying Triplet State Formation in Zinc Dipyrrin Complexes

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Photocatalysis is a promising method to harness solar energy and use it to form fuels and other high-value chemicals, but most sensitizers used in photocatalytic reactions are complexes of rare and expensive metals such as ruthenium and iridium. Zinc dipyrromethene complexes have potential to be a more earth-abundant alternative, but their photophysical properties are largely unexplored. In this study, triplet state formation was quantified in two zinc dipyrromethene complexes, with and without heavy atoms, by transient absorption spectroscopy. Without heavy atoms, the triplet quantum yield was 16% in toluene and 27% in THF. With the addition of heavy I atoms, the triplet quantum yield increased to 62-63% and was insensitive to solvent polarity. The fact that in the absence of heavy atoms the triplet yield is affected by solvent polarity and in the presence of heavy atoms it is not suggests that triplet formation occurs through different pathways in the two complexes. These triplet yields meet or exceed those of successful organic photosensitizers, illustrating the potential for zinc dipyrromethene complexes as photosensitizers.