Synthesis and photophysical evaluation of charge neutral thiourea or urea based fluorescent PET sensors for bis-carboxylates and pyrophosphate
The synthesis of the fluorescent photoinduced electron transfer (PET) chemosensors 1–3 for bis-anions such as bis-carboxylates and pyrophosphate in organic solvents is described herein. These sensors are based on the receptor–spacer–fluorophore–spacer–receptor motif where the receptors are charge neutral aromatic thiourea or urea receptors and the fluorophore is anthracene. The anion recognition was evaluated using 1H NMR as well as absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy in DMSO. For simple anions such as acetate or fluoride, the recognition was shown to be through hydrogen bonding of the corresponding anion to the receptors. This gave rise to only minor changes in the absorption spectra, but significant changes in the fluorescence emission spectra, which was substantially (70–95%) quenched. Analysis of these recognition events implied a 1 : 2 (sensor : anion) binding and ideal PET behaviour for ions such as AcO− and H2PO4−. For F−, the luminescent quenching indicated a 1 : 1 binding, but we deduced that this was due more to complete quenching of the excited state after the addition of one equivalent of the anion. For all of the anions, the quenching contributed to enhanced efficiency of PET from the receptors to the excited state of the fluorophore. In the case of the bis-anions (ambient), such as di-carboxylates, similar fluorescence quenching was observed. However, here either a 1 : 1 or a 1 : 2 binding was observed depending on the length of the spacer separating the two carboxylate moieties and the nature of the receptor. Whereas both pyrophosphate and malonate gave rise to a 1 : 1 binding, glutarate gave rise to ∼1 : 2 binding for the thiourea sensors 1 and 2. However, for the urea based sensor 3, the binding was found to be 1 : 1 for all the bis-anions. For such a 1 : 1 binding we propose that the anion most likely bridges the fluorophore moiety. This was also evident from the 1H NMR (DMSO-d6) spectrum where the anthracene resonances were significantly affected. By simply modifying the electronic structure of the receptor, the sensitivity of the recognition process could also be modified; e.g. compound 1, bearing the trifluoromethyl substituent, showed stronger binding to the bis-anions than 2, which possessed a simple phenyl moiety.