Detection of a charge-separated catalyst precursor state in a linked photosensitizer-catalyst assembly†
We have designed two new supramolecular assemblies based on Co(II)-templated coordination of Ru(bpy)32+ (bpy = 2,2′-bipyridyl) analogues as photosensitizers and electron donors to a cobaloxime macrocycle, which are of interest as proton reduction catalysts. The self-assembled photocatalyst precursors were structurally characterized by Co K-edge X-ray absorption spectroscopy and solution-phase X-ray scattering. Visible light excitation of one of the assemblies has yielded instantaneous electron transfer and charge separation to form a transient Co(I) state which persists for 26 ps. The development of a linked photosensitizer–cobaloxime architecture supporting efficient Co(I) charge transfer is significant since it is mechanistically critical as the first photo-induced electron transfer step for hydrogen production, and has not been detected in previous photosensitizer–cobaloxime linked dyad assemblies. X-band EPR spectroscopy has revealed that the Co(II) centres of both assemblies are high spin, in contrast to most previously described cobaloximes, and likely plays an important role in facilitating photoinduced charge separation. Based on the results obtained from ultrafast and nanosecond transient absorption optical spectroscopies, we propose that charge recombination occurs through multiple ligand states present within the photosensitizer modules. The studies presented here will enhance our understanding of supramolecular photocatalyst assembly and direct new designs for artificial photosynthesis.