Spectroscopic Diagnosis of Excited-State Aromaticity: Capturing Electronic Structures and Conformations upon Aromaticity Reversal

Juwon Oh, Young Mo Sung, Yongseok Hong, Dongho Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


ConspectusAromaticity, the special energetic stability derived from cyclic [4n + 2]π-conjugated electronic structures, has been the topic of intense interest in chemistry because it plays a critical role in rationalizing molecular stability, reactivity, and physical/chemical properties. Recently, the pioneering work by Colin Baird on aromaticity reversal, postulating that aromatic (antiaromatic) character in the ground state reverses to antiaromatic (aromatic) character in the lowest excited triplet state, has attracted much scientific attention. The completely reversed aromaticity in the excited state provides direct insight into understanding the photophysical/chemical properties of photoactive materials. In turn, the application of aromatic molecules to photoactive materials has led to numerous studies revealing this aromaticity reversal. However, most studies of excited-state aromaticity have been based on the theoretical point of view. The experimental evaluation of aromaticity in the excited state is still challenging and strenuous because the assessment of (anti)aromaticity with conventional magnetic, energetic, and geometric indices is difficult in the excited state, which practically restricts the extension and application of the concept of excited-state aromaticity.Time-resolved optical spectroscopies can provide a new and alternative avenue to evaluate excited-state aromaticity experimentally while observing changes in the molecular features in the excited states. Time-resolved optical spectroscopies take advantage of ultrafast laser pulses to achieve high time resolution, making them suitable for monitoring ultrafast changes in the excited states of molecular systems. This can provide valuable information for understanding the aromaticity reversal.This Account presents recent breakthroughs in the experimental assessment of excited-state aromaticity and the verification of aromaticity reversal with time-resolved optical spectroscopic measurements. To scrutinize this intriguing and challenging scientific issue, expanded porphyrins have been utilized as the ideal testing platform for investigating aromaticity because they show distinct aromatic and antiaromatic characters with aromaticity-specific spectroscopic features. Expanded porphyrins exhibit perfect aromatic and antiaromatic congener pairs having the same molecular framework but different numbers of π electrons, which facilitates the study of the pure effect of aromaticity by comparative analyses. On the basis of the characteristics of expanded porphyrins, time-resolved electronic and vibrational absorption spectroscopies capture the changes in electronic structure and molecular conformations driven by the change in aromaticity and provide clear evidence for aromaticity reversal in the excited states. The approaches described in this Account pave the way for the development of new and alternative experimental indices for the evaluation of excited-state aromaticity, which will enable overarching and fundamental comprehension of the role of (anti)aromaticity in the stability, dynamics, and reactivity in the excited states with possible implications for practical applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1349-1358
Number of pages10
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jun 19

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
First, we thank colleagues with whom we have been collaborating on this subject, in particular Prof. Atsuhiro Osuka (Kyoto University) and his research fellows. The work described in this Account was supported by the Samsung Science and Technology Foundation under Project SSTF-BA1402-10. The quantum calculations were performed using the supercomputing resources of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information (KISTI).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Chemical Society.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)


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