Role of the Perfluoro Effect in the Selective Photochemical Isomerization of Hexafluorobenzene

24 February 2021, Version 2
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Hexafluorobenzene and many of its derivatives exhibit a chemoselective photochemical isomerization, resulting in highly-strained, Dewar-type bicyclohexenes. While the changes in absorption and emission associated with benzene hexafluorination have been attributed to the socalled “perfluoro effect,” the resulting electronic structure and photochemical reactivity of hexafluorobenzene are still unclear. We now use a combination of ultrafast time-resolved spectroscopy, multiconfigurational computations, and non-adiabatic dynamics simulations to develop a holistic description of the absorption, emission, and photochemical dynamics of the 4πelectrocyclic ring-closing of hexafluorobenzene and the fluorination effect along the reaction coordinate. Our calculations suggest that the electron-withdrawing fluorine substituents induce a vibronic coupling between the lowest-energy 1B2u (ππ*) and 1E1g (πσ*) excited states by selectively stabilizing the σ-type states. The vibronic coupling occurs along vibrational modes of e2u symmetry which distorts the excited-state minimum geometry resulting in the experimentally broad, featureless absorption bands, and a ~100 nm Stokes shift in fluorescence– in stark contrast to benzene. Finally, the vibronic coupling is shown to simultaneously destabilize the reaction pathway towards hexafluoro-benzvalene and promote molecular vibrations along the 4π ring-closing pathway, resulting in the chemoselectivity for hexafluoro-Dewar-benzene.


Non-Adiabatic Molecular Dynamics
Transient absorption measurement

Supplementary materials



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