What is it about?

We present a theoretical study on the structural and electronic properties of the p-dimethylamino-cinnamaldehyde (DMACA) merocyanine molecule in solvents of different polarities by combining the free energy gradient and the average solvent electrostatic configuration methods via an iterative procedure based on the sequential quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics hybrid methodology. Studying such a system in solution is a crucial step for understanding the solvent effects on its properties, which can have implications in fields such as optoelectronics and biophysics. We found that the DMACA molecule presents different geometries in nonpolar and polar solvents, changing from a polyene-like structure with a pyramidal dimethylamino group (in gas phase or nonpolar solvents) to a cyanine-like structure with a planar dimethylamino group in water due to the stabilizing effect of hydrogen bonds between DMACA and water. The molecular absorption spectrum showed a significant change, increasing solvent polarity with a large shift of the lower energy band, while the other two low lying bands did not shift significantly. The study accurately described the solvatochromic shift of the lowest-energy band and analyzed the structure of the excited states in terms of the one-electron transition density matrix, which showed that the dominant excited state (associated with the first lower energy band) is characterized by a local excitation on the benzene ring with charge transfer character to the carbon conjugated segment.

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Why is it important?

The endeavor to comprehend the solvent effects on DMACA's structural and electronic attributes carries profound implications across diverse scientific domains. Notably, this research journey stands to enrich our comprehension of optoelectronics and biophysics. The distinct structural transformations of DMACA in nonpolar and polar solvents—from polyene-like to cyanine-like configurations—demonstrate the pivotal role of solvent interactions in modulating molecular behavior. These insights could be leveraged to design novel materials with tailored electronic and optical properties, thus amplifying the landscape of optoelectronic devices. Similarly, in the realm of biophysics, understanding how molecules react to solvent environments can unveil crucial details about biochemical processes and interactions within living systems.


In essence, this theoretical investigation on the DMACA merocyanine molecule in solvents of varying polarities demonstrates the intricate connection between molecular structure, electronic properties, and solvent interactions. By offering insights into the molecular responses to solvent environments, this research contributes to the broader scientific understanding while suggesting innovative pathways for applications across optoelectronics, biophysics, and materials design.

Karlstads Universitet

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Elucidating the conformational change and electronic absorption spectrum of p-dimethylamino-cinnamaldehyde merocyanine across different solvent polarities, The Journal of Chemical Physics, August 2023, American Institute of Physics,
DOI: 10.1063/5.0158994.
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