Jian He, Sanyo M. Mathew, Sarah D. Cornett, Stephan C. Grundy, and C. Scott Hartley*
Org. Biomol. Chem. 2012, 10, 3398–3405
ortho-Phenylenes are an emerging class of helical oligomers and polymers. We have synthesized a series of push–pull-substituted o-phenylene oligomers (dimethylamino/nitro) up to the octamer. Conformational analysis of the hexamer using a combination of low-temperature NMR spectroscopy and ab initio predictions of 1H NMR chemical shifts indicates that, like other o-phenylenes, they exist as compact helices in solution. However, the substituents are found to have a significant effect on their conformational behavior: the nitro-functionalized terminus is 3-fold more likely to twist out of the helix. Protonation of the dimethylamino group favors the helical conformer. UV/vis spectroscopy indicates that the direct charge-transfer interaction between the push–pull substituents attenuates quickly compared to other conjugated systems, with no significant charge-transfer band for oligomers longer than the trimer. On protonation of the dimethylamino group, significant bathochromic shifts with increasing oligomer length are observed: the effective conjugation length is 9 repeat units, more than twice that of the parent oligomer. This behavior may be rationalized through examination of the frontier molecular orbitals of these compounds, which exhibit greater delocalization after protonation, as shown by DFT calculations.