Identification of Ion-Pair Structures in Solution by Vibrational Stark Effects

John Hack, David C. Grills, John R. Miller, Tomoyasu Mani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Ion pairing is a fundamental consideration in many areas of chemistry and has implications in a wide range of sciences and technologies that include batteries and organic photovoltaics. Ions in solution are known to inhabit multiple possible states, including free ions (FI), contact ion pairs (CIP), and solvent-separated ion pairs (SSIP). However, in solutions of organic radicals and nonmetal electrolytes, it is often difficult to distinguish between these states. In the first part of this work, we report evidence for the formation of SSIPs in low-polarity solvents and distinct measurements of CIP, SSIP, and FI, by using the ν(C≡N) infrared (IR) band of a nitrile-substituted fluorene radical anion. Use of time-resolved IR detection following pulse radiolysis allowed us to unambiguously assign the peak of the FI. In the presence of nonmetal electrolytes, two distinct red-shifted peaks were observed and assigned to the CIP and SSIP. The assignments are interpreted in the framework of the vibrational Stark effect (VSE) and are supported by (1) the solvent dependence of ion-pair populations, (2) the observation of a cryptand-separated sodium ion pair that mimics the formation of SSIPs, and (3) electronic structure calculations. In the second part of this work, we show that a blue-shift of the ν(C≡N) IR band due to the VSE can be induced in a nitrile-substituted fluorene radical anion by covalently tethering it to a metal-chelating ligand that forms an intramolecular ion pair upon reduction and complexation with sodium ion. This adds support to the conclusion that the shift in IR absorptions by ion pairing originates from the VSE. These results combined show that we can identify ion-pair structures by using the VSE, including the existence of SSIPs in a low-polarity solvent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1149-1157
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Feb 18 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Materials Chemistry

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