Torsionally broken symmetry assists infrared excitation of biomimetic charge-coupled nuclear motions in the electronic ground state†
The concerted interplay between reactive nuclear and electronic motions in molecules actuates chemistry. Here, we demonstrate that out-of-plane torsional deformation and vibrational excitation of stretching motions in the electronic ground state modulate the charge-density distribution in a donor-bridge-acceptor molecule in solution. The vibrationally-induced change, visualised by transient absorption spectroscopy with a mid-infrared pump and a visible probe, is mechanistically resolved by ab initio molecular dynamics simulations. Mapping the potential energy landscape attributes the observed charge-coupled coherent nuclear motions to the population of the initial segment of a double-bond isomerization channel, also seen in biological molecules. Our results illustrate the pivotal role of pre-twisted molecular geometries in enhancing the transfer of vibrational energy to specific molecular modes, prior to thermal redistribution. This motivates the search for synthetic strategies towards achieving potentially new infrared-mediated chemistry.