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Journal Articles Accounts of Chemical Research Year : 2015

Taking Up the Cyanine Challenge with Quantum Tools.


Cyanine derivatives, named from the Greek word kyanos meaning dark-blue, were discovered more than 150 years ago and remain one of the most widely used classes of organic dyes with contemporary applications in photography (panchromatic emulsions), information storage (CD-R and DVD-R media) and biochemistry (DNA and protein labeling) fields. Cyanine chromogens consist of a charged π-conjugated segment containing an odd number of sp(2) carbon atoms with the chain capped at the extremities by two electronegative centers, typically nitrogen or oxygen atoms. Cyanines are characterized by a vanishing bond length alternation indicating nearly equal carbon-carbon bond lengths, as well as a very intense and sharp absorption band presenting a shoulder. This hallmark band undergoes a strong red shift when the chain is extended. This so-called vinyl shift is extremely large (ca. 100 nm for each pair of carbon atoms added in the π-conjugated path), making cyanines ideal building blocks for the design of devices with near-infrared applications. Numerous cyanines also exhibit emission bands with large quantum yields. These exceptional optical properties explain why both canonical cyanines and the corresponding fluoroborates (e.g., boron-dipyrromethene, BODIPY) remain the focus of an ever-growing body of experimental work. In turn, this popularity has stimulated quantum mechanical investigations aiming, on the one hand, at probing the specific electronic nature of cyanine dyes and, on the other hand, at helping to design new dyes. However, the adiabatic approximation to time-dependent density functional theory, the most widespread ab initio model for electronically excited states, fails to accurately reproduce the absorption spectra of cyanine derivatives: it yields a systematic and large underestimation of the experimental wavelengths irrespective of the details of the computational protocol. In contrast, highly correlated wave function approaches provide accurate transition energies for model systems but are hardly applicable to real-life cyanines and BODIPY. This indicates that setting up a computationally tractable theoretical protocol that provides both robust and accurate optical spectra for cyanine-based dyes is a major challenge that has only been taken up lately. In this Account, we compile the most recent advances in the field by considering both compact streptocyanines and large fluoroborates. For the former, we summarize the key results obtained with a large panel of theoretical approaches, allowing us not only to understand the origin of the cyanine challenge but also to pinpoint the schemes presenting the most promising accuracy/effort ratio. For the latter, we show via selected examples how theoretical models can be used to reproduce simultaneously experimental band shapes and transition energies, thus paving the way to an efficient in silico design of new compounds.

Dates and versions

hal-01153430 , version 1 (19-05-2015)



Boris Le Guennic, Denis Jacquemin. Taking Up the Cyanine Challenge with Quantum Tools.. Accounts of Chemical Research, 2015, 48 (3), pp.530--537. ⟨10.1021/ar500447q⟩. ⟨hal-01153430⟩
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