Control of H- and J-type pi stacking by peripheral alkyl chains and self-sorting phenomena in perylene bisimide homo- and heteroaggregates

Suhrit Ghosh, Xue-Qing Li, Vladimir Stepanenko, Frank Würthner
Chemistry: a European Journal 2008, 14 (36): 11343-57
The synthesis, self-assembly, and gelation ability of a series of organogelators based on perylene bisimide (PBI) dyes containing amide groups at imide positions are reported. The synergetic effect of intermolecular hydrogen bonding among the amide functionalities and pi-pi stacking between the PBI units directs the formation of the self-assembled structure in solution, which beyond a certain concentration results in gelation. Effects of different peripheral alkyl substituents on the self-assembly were studied by solvent- and temperature-dependent UV-visible and circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy. PBI derivatives containing linear alkyl side chains in the periphery formed H-type pi stacks and red gels, whereas by introducing branched alkyl chains the formation of J-type pi stacks and green gels could be achieved. Sterically demanding substituents, in particular, the 2-ethylhexyl group completely suppressed the pi stacking. Coaggregation studies with H- and J-aggregating chromophores revealed the formation of solely H-type pi stacks containing both precursor molecules at a lower mole fraction of J-aggregating chromophore. Beyond a critical composition of the two chromophores, mixed H-aggregate and J-aggregate were formed simultaneously, which points to a self-sorting process. The versatility of the gelators is strongly dependent on the length and nature of the peripheral alkyl substituents. CD spectroscopic studies revealed a preferential helicity of the aggregates of PBI building blocks bearing chiral side chains. Even for achiral PBI derivatives, the utilization of chiral solvents such as (R)- or (S)-limonene was effective in preferential population of one-handed helical fibers. AFM studies revealed the formation of helical fibers from all the present PBI gelators, irrespective of the presence of chiral or achiral side chains. Furthermore, vortex flow was found to be effective in macroscopic orientation of the aggregates as evidenced from the origin of CD signals from aggregates of achiral PBI molecules.

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