Intramolecular electronic excitation energy transfer in donor/acceptor dyads studied by time and frequency resolved single molecule spectroscopy

J Chem Phys. 2008 Mar 28;128(12):124516. doi: 10.1063/1.2841474.


Electronic excitation energy transfer has been studied by single molecule spectroscopy in donor/acceptor dyads composed of a perylenediimide donor and a terrylenediimide acceptor linked by oligo(phenylene) bridges of two different lengths. For the shorter bridge (three phenylene units) energy is transferred almost quantitatively from the donor to the acceptor, while for the longer bridge (seven phenylene units) energy transfer is less efficient as indicated by the occurrence of donor and acceptor emission. To determine energy transfer rates and efficiencies at the single molecule level, several methods have been employed. These comprise time-correlated single photon counting techniques at room temperature and optical linewidth measurements at low temperature (1.4 K). For both types of measurement we obtain broad distributions of the rate constants of energy transfer. These distributions are simulated in the framework of Forster theory by properly taking into account static disorder and the flexibility of the dyads, as both effects can substantially contribute to the distributions of energy transfer times. The rate constants of energy transfer obtained from the calculated distributions are smaller on average than those extracted from the experimental distributions, whereby the discrepancy is larger for the shorter bridge. Furthermore, by plotting the experimentally determined transfer rates against the individual spectral overlaps, approximately linear dependencies are found being indicative of a Forster-type contribution to the energy transfer. For a given single molecule such a linear dependence could be followed by spectral diffusion induced fluctuations of the spectral overlap. The discrepancies between measured energy transfer rates and rates calculated by Forster theory are briefly discussed in light of recent results of quantum chemical calculations, which indicate that a bridge-mediated contribution is mainly responsible for the deviations from Forster theory. The availability of the inhomogeneous distributions of donor and acceptor electronic transition frequencies allows for comparing the energy transfer process at liquid helium and room temperature for the same set of molecules via simple simulations. It is found that on average the energy transfer is by a factor of approximately 3 faster at room temperature, which is due to an increase of spectral overlap.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anthracenes / chemistry
  • Anthracenes / radiation effects
  • Electrons
  • Energy Transfer*
  • Imides / chemistry*
  • Imides / radiation effects
  • Light
  • Molecular Structure
  • Perylene / analogs & derivatives
  • Perylene / chemistry
  • Perylene / radiation effects
  • Photochemistry
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / chemistry*
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / radiation effects
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence / methods
  • Temperature
  • Time Factors


  • Anthracenes
  • Imides
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • perylenediimide
  • terrylene
  • Perylene