Balancing the interplay between ligand ejection and therapeutic window light absorption in ruthenium polypyridyl complexes†
Ruthenium polypyridyl complexes have gained significant interest as photochemotherapies (PCTs) where their excited-state properties play a critical role in the photo-cytotoxicity mechanism and efficacy. Herein we report a systematic electrochemical, spectrochemical, and photophysical analysis of a series of ruthenium(II) polypyridyl complexes of the type [Ru(bpy)2(N–N)]2+ (where bpy = 2,2′-bipyridine; N–N is a bidentate polypyridyl ligand) designed to mimic PCTs. In this series, the N–N ligand was modified through increased conjugation and/or incorporation of electronegative heteroatoms to shift the metal-to-ligand charge-transfer (MLCT) absorptions near the therapeutic window for PCTs (600–1100 nm) while incorporating steric bulk to trigger photoinduced ligand dissociation. The lowest energy MLCT absorptions were red-shifted from λmax = 454 nm to 564 nm, with emission energies decreasing from λmax = 620 nm to 850 nm. Photoinduced ligand ejection and temperature-dependent emission studies revealed an important interplay between red-shifting MLCT absorptions and accessing the dissociative 3dd* states, with energy barriers between the 3MLCT* and 3dd* states ranging from 850 cm−1 to 2580 cm−1 for the complexes measured. This work demonstrates the importance of understanding both the MLCT manifold and 3dd* state energy levels in the future design of ligands and complexes for PCT.