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null (Ed.)9-Anthracene carboxylic acid derivatives comprise a family of thermally reversible photomechanical molecular crystals. The photomechanical response relies on a [4 + 4] photodimerization followed by dissociation that occurs on timescales of seconds to minutes. A combined theoretical and experimental investigation is undertaken to better understand how chemical modification of the anthracene core influences energetics of both the isolated molecule and the crystal lattice. We use both density functional theory and dispersion-corrected Moller–Plesset perturbation theory computational methods to establish orbital energies, photodimerization reaction energies, and lattice energies for a set of substituted 9-anthracene carboxylic acid molecules. The calculations reveal that steric interactions play a dominant role in the ability to form photodimers and indicate an energetic threshold of 80–90 kJ per mole for the dimerization reaction. Examination of intermolecular bonding in a subset of fluorinated 9ACs revealed the absence of H⋯F intermolecular bond formation and energy differences that can explain observed trends in the dissociation kinetics and mechanical reset times. Fluorescence recovery after photobleaching experiments shows that the photodimer dissociation kinetics depend on the amount of initial photodimer, preventing a straightforward correlation between halogen atom substitution and dissociation rates using the Bell–Evans–Polanyi principle. The results clarify how molecular structure affects intermolecular interactions and photoreactivity in this family of molecular crystals, but the origin of the complex photodimer dissociation dynamics remains an open question.more » « less
null (Ed.)4-Fluoro-9-anthracenecarboxylic acid ( 4F-9AC ) is a thermally reversible (T-type) photomechanical molecular crystal. The photomechanical response is driven by a [4 + 4] photodimerization reaction, while the photodimer dissociation determines the reset time. In this paper, both the chemical kinetics of dimer dissociation (using a microscopic fluorescence-recovery-after-photobleaching experiment) and mechanical reset dynamics (by imaging bending microneedles) for single 4F-9AC crystals are measured. The dissociation kinetics depend strongly on the initial concentration of photodimer, slowing down and becoming nonexponential at high dimer concentrations. This dose-dependent behavior is also observed in the mechanical response of bending microneedles. A new feature in the photomechanical behavior is identified: the ability of a very weak control beam to suppress dimer dissociation after large initial dimer conversions. This phenomenon provides a way to optically control the mechanical response of this photomechanical crystal. To gain physical insight into the origin of the nonexponential recovery curves, the experimental results are analyzed in terms of a standard first-order kinetic model and a nonlinear Finke–Watzky (FW) model. The FW model can qualitatively reproduce the transition from exponential to sigmoidal recovery with larger initial conversions, but neither model can reproduce the suppression of the recovery in the presence of a weak holding beam. These results highlight the need for more sophisticated theories to describe cooperative phenomena in solid-state crystalline reactions, as well as demonstrating how this behavior could lead to new properties and/or improved performance in photomechanical materials.more » « less