Heteroleptic Copper(I) Complexes Prepared from Phenanthroline and Bis-Phosphine Ligands: Rationalization of the Photophysical and Electrochemical Properties

Enrico Leoni, John Mohanraj, Michel Holler, Meera Mohankumar, Iwona Nierengarten, Filippo Monti, Alix Sournia-Saquet, Béatrice Delavaux-Nicot, Nierengarten Jean-Francois Nierengarten, Nicola Armaroli

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84 Scopus citations


The electronic and structural properties of ten heteroleptic [Cu(NN)(PP)] + complexes have been investigated. NN indicates 1,10-phenanthroline (phen) or 4,7-diphenyl-1,10-phenanthroline (Bphen); each of these ligands is combined with five PP bis-phosphine chelators, i.e., bis(diphenylphosphino)methane (dppm), 1,2-bis(diphenylphosphino)ethane (dppe), 1,3-bis(diphenylphosphino)propane (dppp), 1,2-bis(diphenylphosphino)benzene (dppb), and bis[(2-diphenylphosphino)phenyl] ether (POP). All complexes are mononuclear, apart from those based on dppm, which are dinuclear. Experimental data - also taken from the literature and including electrochemical properties, X-ray crystal structures, UV-vis absorption spectra in CH 2 Cl 2 , luminescence spectra and lifetimes in solution, in PMMA, and as powders - have been rationalized with the support of density functional theory calculations. Temperature dependent studies (78-358 K) have been performed for selected complexes to assess thermally activated delayed fluorescence. The main findings are (i) dependence of the ground-state geometry on the crystallization conditions, with the same complex often yielding different crystal structures; (ii) simple model compounds with imposed C 2v symmetry ([Cu(phen)(PX 3 ) 2 ] + X = H or CH 3 ) are capable of modeling structural parameters as a function of the P-Cu-P bite angle, which plays a key role in dictating the overall structure of [Cu(NN)(PP)] + complexes; (iii) as the P-Cu-P angle increases, the energy of the metal-to-ligand charge transfer absorption bands linearly increases; (iv) the former correlation does not hold for emission spectra, which are red-shifted for the weaker luminophores; (v) the larger the number of intramolecular π-interactions within the complex in the ground state, the higher the luminescence quantum yield, underpinning a geometry locking effect that limits the structural flattening of the excited state. This work provides a general framework to rationalize the structure-property relationships of [Cu(NN)(PP)] + , a class of compounds of increasing relevance for electroluminescent devices, photoredox catalysis, and solar-to-fuels conversion, which so far have been investigated in an unsystematic fashion, eluding a comprehensive understanding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15537-15549
Number of pages13
JournalInorganic Chemistry
Issue number24
StatePublished - 17 Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright 2018 American Chemical Society.


This research was supported by the CNR (PHEEL; Progetto Bandiera N-CHEM; bilateral project CNR-CNRS Lebanon), the CNRS, the International Center for Frontier Research in Chemistry, and the LabEx “Chimie des System̀ es Complexes”. We thank Joanna M. Malicka and Gao Sheng for preliminary photophysical measurements and Alain Moreau (LCC) for electrochemical measurements.

FundersFunder number
Center for Neuroscience Research
Centre International de Recherche aux Frontières de la Chimie
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique


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