A common perception exists that glycerol provides an inert-like environment modifying viscosity and index of refraction by its various concentrations in aqueous solution. Said perception is herein challenged by investigating the effects of the glycerol environment on the spectroscopic properties of fluorescein, as a representative fluorophore, using steady-state and time-resolved techniques and computational chemistry. Results strongly suggest that the fluorescence quantum yield, measured fluorescence lifetime (FLT), natural lifetime and calculated fluorescence lifetime are all highly sensitive to the presence of glycerol. Glycerol was found to impact both the ground and first excited states of fluorescein, quenching and modifying both absorption and emission spectra, affecting the fundamental electrical dipoles of the ground and first excited singlet states, and lowering FLT and quantum yield. Furthermore, the Stern–Volmer, Lippert–Mataga, Perrin and Strickler–Berg relations indicate that glycerol acts upon fluorescein in aqueous solution as a quencher and alters the fluorescein geometry. Predictions made by computational chemistry impressively correspond to experimental results, both indicating changes in the properties of fluorescein at around 35% v/v aqueous glycerol, a clear indication that glycerol is not an innocent medium. This study proposes the Strickler–Berg relation as a means of detecting non-negligible effects of a hosting medium on its host fluorophore. These new insights on the molecular structures, the interactions between glycerol and its host fluorophore, and the effects of one on the other may be essential for understanding fundamental phenomena in chemistry and related fields. Graphic abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]
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© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to European Photochemistry Association, European Society for Photobiology.