Structure Property Analysis of the Solution and Solid-State Properties of Bistable Photochromic Hydrazones

The development of new photochromic compounds, and the optimization of their photophysical and switching properties are prerequisites for accessing new functions and opportunities that are not possible with currently available systems. To this end we recently developed a new bistable hydrazone switch that undergoes efficient photoswitching and emission ON/OFF toggling in both solution and solid-state. Here, we present a systematic structure-property analysis using a family of hydrazones, and show how their properties, including activation wavelengths, photostationary states (PSSs), photoisomerization quantum yields, thermal half-lives (t1/2), and solution/solid-state fluorescence characteristics vary as a function of electron donating (EDG) and/or withdrawing (EWG) substituents. These studies resulted in the red-shifting of the absorption profiles of the Z and E isomers of the switches, while maintaining excellent PSSs in almost all of the compounds. The introduction of para-NMe2, and/or para-NO2 groups improved the photoisomerization quantum yields, and the extremely long thermal half-lives (tens to thousands of years) were maintained in most cases, even in a push-pull system, which can be activated solely with visible light. Hydrazones bearing EDGs at the stator phenyl group are an exception and show up to 6 orders of magnitude acceleration int1/2 (i.e., days) because of a change in the isomerization mechanism. Moreover, we discovered that a para-NMe2 group is required to have reasonable fluorescence quantum yields in solution, and that rigidification enhances the emission in the solid-state. Finally, X-ray crystallography analysis showed that the switching process is more efficient in the solid-state when the hydrazone is loosely packed.