Photochemistry within a Water-Soluble Organic Capsule

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Conspectus Photochemistry along with life as we know it originated on earth billions of years ago. Supramolecular Photochemistry had its beginning when plants that sustain life began transforming water into oxygen by carrying out light initiated reactions within highly organized assemblies. Prompted by the efforts of J. Priestly (photosynthesis), F. Sestini, S. Cannizaro, and C. Liebermann (solid-state photochemistry of santonin, quinones, and cinnamic acid), orderly scientific investigations of the link between light absorption by matter and molecules and the chemical and physical consequences began in the mid-1700s. By 1970 when Molecular Photochemistry had matured, it was clear that controlling photochemical reactions by conventional methods of varying reaction parameters like temperature and pressure would be futile due to the photoreactions' very low activation energies and enthalpies.During the last 50 years, the excited state behavior of molecules has been successfully manipulated with the use of confining media and weak interactions between the medium and the reactant molecule. In this context, with our knowledge from experimentation with micelles, cyclodextrins (CD), cucurbitruils (CB), calixarenes (CA), Pd nanocage, crystals, and zeolites as media, we began about a decade ago to explore the use of a new water-soluble synthetic organic cavitand, octa acid (OA) as a reaction container. The uniqueness of OA as an organic cavitand lies in that two OA molecules form a closed hydrophobic capsule to encapsulate water-insoluble guest molecule(s). The ability to include a large number of guest molecules in OA has provided an opportunity to examine the excited state chemistry of organic molecules in a hydrophobic, confined environment. OA distinguishes itself from the well-known cavitands CD and CB by its active reaction cavity absorbing UV-radiation between 200 and 300 nm and serving as energy, electron, and hydrogen donor. The freedom of guest molecules in OA, between that in crystals and isotropic solution can be transformed into photoproducts selectivity. The results of our photochemical investigations elaborated in this Account demonstrate that OA with a medium sized cavity exerts better control on excited state processes than the more common and familiar organic hosts such as CD, CB, CA, and micelles. By examining the photochemistry of a number of molecules (olefins, carbonyls, aromatics and singlet oxygen) that undergo varied reactions (cleavage, cycloaddition, cis-trans isomerization, oxidation and cyclization) within OA capsule, we have demonstrated that the free space within the container, the capsule influenced conformation and preorientation of guest molecules, supramolecular steric control, and capsular dynamics contribute to the altered excited state behavior.In this Account, we have shown that photochemistry based on concepts of physical organic and supramolecular chemistry continues to be a discipline with unlimited potential. The future of supramolecular photochemistry lies in synthetic, materials, medicinal, and biological chemistries. Success in these areas depends on synthesizing well-designed water-soluble hosts that can emulate complex biological assemblies, organizing and examining the behavior of supramolecular assemblies on solid surfaces, rendering the photoreactions catalytic, and delivering encapsulated drugs in a targeted fashion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2904-2917
Number of pages14
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Oct 21 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)


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