Chapter Open for the Excited-State Intramolecular Thiol Proton Transfer in the Room-Temperature Solution

Chun Hsiang Wang, Zong Ying Liu, Chun Hao Huang, Chao Tsen Chen*, Fan Yi Meng, Yu Chan Liao, Yi Hung Liu, Chao Che Chang, Elise Y. Li*, Pi Tai Chou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


We report here, for the first time, the experimental observation on the excited-state intramolecular proton transfer (ESIPT) reaction of the thiol proton in room-temperature solution. This phenomenon is demonstrated by a derivative of 3-thiolflavone (3TF), namely, 2-(4-(diethylamino)phenyl)-3-mercapto-4H-chromen-4-one (3NTF), which possesses an - S - H···O= intramolecular H-bond (denoted by the dashed line) and has an S1 absorption at 383 nm. Upon photoexcitation, 3NTF exhibits a distinctly red emission maximized at 710 nm in cyclohexane with an anomalously large Stokes shift of 12 230 cm-1. Upon methylation on the thiol group, 3MeNTF, lacking the thiol proton, exhibits a normal Stokes-shifted emission at 472 nm. These, in combination with the computational approaches, lead to the conclusion of thiol-type ESIPT unambiguously. Further time-resolved study renders an unresolvable (<180 fs) ESIPT rate for 3NTF, followed by a tautomer emission lifetime of 120 ps. In sharp contrast to 3NTF, both 3TF and 3-mercapto-2-(4-(trifluoromethyl)phenyl)-4H-chromen-4-one (3FTF) are non-emissive. Detailed computational approaches indicate that all studied thiols undergo thermally favorable ESIPT. However, once forming the proton-transferred tautomer, the lone-pair electrons on the sulfur atom brings non-negligible nπ∗ contribution to the S1′ state (prime indicates the proton-transferred tautomer), for which the relaxation is dominated by the non-radiative deactivation. For 3NTF, the extension of π-electron delocalization by the diethylamino electron-donating group endows the S1′ state primarily in the ππ∗ configuration, exhibiting the prominent tautomer emission. The results open a new chapter in the field of ESIPT, covering the non-canonical sulfur intramolecular H-bond and its associated ESIPT at ambient temperature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12715-12724
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number32
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Aug 18

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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