Synthesis of p-Azaquinodimethane-based Quinoidal Fluorophores

J Org Chem. 2023 Nov 3;88(21):14960-14968. doi: 10.1021/acs.joc.3c01342. Epub 2023 Oct 16.


Quinoidal π-conjugated systems are sought-after materials for semiconducting applications because of their rich optical and electronic characteristics. However, the analogous fluorescent compounds are extremely rare, with just two reports in the literature. Here, we present the design and development of a third series of quinoidal fluorophores [(2,5-diarylidene)-3,6-bis(hexyloxy)-2,5-dihydropyrazine (Q1-Q5)] that incorporates p-azaquinodimethane. The fluorophores are synthesized in a two-step synthetic approach employing Knoevenagel condensation of N,N-diacetyl-piperazine-2,5-dione with different aromatic aldehydes followed by O-alkylation in high yields. Q1-Q5 are strongly emissive, and by altering the aryl-substituents, the emission colors can be modulated from blue to orange. The compounds possess emission maxima (λem) at 475-555 nm in the solution state and 510-610 nm in the solid state, with fluorescence quantum yields of up to 60%. To the best of our knowledge, the reported systems are the first quinoidal dual-state emissive (solution- and solid-state) compounds. In trifluoroacetic acid, Q5 exhibits halochromic behavior, with a dramatic color change from yellow to blue. Furthermore, the preliminary fluorescent sensing studies demonstrated that Q5 could act as a selective turn-off fluorescence probe for electron-deficient picric acid (PA), with an emission quenching of >90% in the solution state. The thin-layer chromatography (TLC) strip sensor of Q5 was also designed to detect PA in water.