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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  3. Proton transfer processes of organic molecules are key to charge transport and photoprotection in biological systems. Among them, excited-state intramolecular proton transfer (ESIPT) reactions are characterized by quick and efficient charge transfer within a molecule, resulting in ultrafast proton motions. The ESIPT-facilitated interconversion between two tautomers (PS and PA) comprising the tree fungal pigment Draconin Red in solution was investigated using a combination of targeted femtosecond transient absorption (fs-TA) and excited-state femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy (ES-FSRS) measurements. Transient intensity (population and polarizability) and frequency (structural and cooling) dynamics of –COH rocking and –C=C, –C=O stretching modes following directed stimulation of each tautomer elucidate the excitation-dependent relaxation pathways, particularly the bidirectional ESIPT progression out of the Franck–Condon region to the lower-lying excited state, of the intrinsically heterogeneous chromophore in dichloromethane solvent. A characteristic overall excited-state PS-to-PA transition on the picosecond timescale leads to a unique “W”-shaped excited-state Raman intensity pattern due to dynamic resonance enhancement with the Raman pump–probe pulse pair. The ability to utilize quantum mechanics calculations in conjunction with steady-state electronic absorption and emission spectra to induce disparate excited-state populations in an inhomogeneous mixture of similar tautomers has broad implications for the modeling of potential energy surfaces and delineation of reaction mechanisms in naturally occurring chromophores. Such fundamental insights afforded by in-depth analysis of ultrafast spectroscopic datasets are also beneficial for future development of sustainable materials and optoelectronics. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2024
  4. Abstract

    This work presents a new method for processing single-crystal semiconductors designed by a computational method to lower the process temperature. This research study is based on a CALPHAD approach (ThermoCalc) to theoretically design processing parameters by utilizing theoretical phase diagrams. The targeted material composition consists of Bi–Se2–Te–Sb (BSTS). The semiconductor alloy contains three phases, hexagonal, rhombohedral-1, and rhombohedral-2 crystal structures, that are presented in the phase field of the theoretical pseudo-binary phase diagram. The semiconductor is also evaluated by applying Hume–Rothery rules along with the CALPHAD approach. Thermodynamic modelling suggests that single-crystals of BSTS can be grown at significantly lower temperatures and this is experimentally validated by low-temperature growth of single crystalline samples followed by exfoliation, compositional analysis, and diffraction.

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  5. Abstract

    Red fluorescent proteins (RFPs) represent an increasingly popular class of genetically encodable bioprobes and biomarkers that can advance next‐generation breakthroughs across the imaging and life sciences. Since the rational design of RFPs with improved functions or enhanced versatility requires a mechanistic understanding of their working mechanisms, while fluorescence is intrinsically an ultrafast event, a suitable toolset involving steady‐state and time‐resolved spectroscopic techniques has become powerful in delineating key structural features and dynamic steps which govern irreversible photoconverting or reversible photoswitching RFPs, and large Stokes shift (LSS)RFPs. The pertinentcistransisomerization and protonation state change of RFP chromophores in their local environments, involving key residues in protein matrices, lead to rich and complicated spectral features across multiple timescales. In particular, ultrafast excited‐state proton transfer in various LSSRFPs showcases the resolving power of wavelength‐tunable femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy (FSRS) in mapping a photocycle with crucial knowledge about the red‐emitting species. Moreover, recent progress in noncanonical RFPs with a site‐specifically modified chromophore provides an appealing route for efficient engineering of redder and brighter RFPs, highly desirable for bioimaging. Such an effective feedback loop involving physical chemists, protein engineers, and biomedical microscopists will enable future successes to expand fundamental knowledge and improve human health.

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  6. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2024
  7. Fluorescent proteins (FPs) are indispensable tools for noninvasive bioimaging and sensing. Measuring the free cellular calcium (Ca2+) concentrations in vivo with genetically encodable FPs can be a relatively direct measure of neuronal activity due to the complex signaling role of these ions. REX-GECO1 is a recently developed red-green emission and excitation ratiometric FP-based biosensor that achieves a high dynamic range due to differences in the chromophore response to light excitation with and without calcium ions. Using steady-state electronic measurements (UV/Visible absorption and emission), along with time-resolved spectroscopic techniques including femtosecond transient absorption (fs-TA) and femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy (FSRS), the potential energy surfaces of these unique biosensors are unveiled with vivid details. The ground-state structural characterization of the Ca2+-free biosensor via FSRS reveals a more spacious protein pocket that allows the chromophore to efficiently twist and reach a dark state. In contrast, the more compressed cavity within the Ca2+-bound biosensor results in a more heterogeneous distribution of chromophore populations that results in multi-step excited state proton transfer (ESPT) pathways on the sub-140 fs, 600 fs, and 3 ps timescales. These results enable rational design strategies to enlarge the spectral separation between the protonated/deprotonated forms and the Stokes shift leading to a larger dynamic range and potentially higher fluorescence quantum yield, which should be broadly applicable to the calcium imaging and biosensor communities. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2024
  8. Nitrophenols are a group of small organic molecules with significant environmental implications from the atmosphere to waterways. In this work, we investigate a series of nitrophenols and nitrophenolates, with the contrasting ortho-, meta-, and para-substituted nitro group to the phenolic hydroxy or phenolate oxygen site (2/3/4NP or NP−), implementing a suite of steady-state and time-resolved spectroscopic techniques that include UV/Visible spectroscopy, femtosecond transient absorption (fs-TA) spectroscopy with probe-dependent and global analysis, and femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy (FSRS), aided by quantum calculations. The excitation-dependent (400 and 267 nm) electronic dynamics in water and methanol, for six protonated or deprotonated nitrophenol molecules (three regioisomers in each set), enable a systematic investigation of the excited-state dynamics of these functional “nanomachines” that can undergo nitro-group twisting (as a rotor), excited-state intramolecular or intermolecular proton transfer (donor–acceptor, ESIPT, or ESPT), solvation, and cooling (chromophore) events on molecular timescales. In particular, the meta-substituted compound 3NP or 3NP− exhibits the strongest charge-transfer character with FSRS signatures (e.g., C–N peak frequency), and thus, does not favor nitroaromatic twist in the excited state, while the ortho-substituted compound 2NP can undergo ESIPT in water and likely generate nitrous acid (HONO) after 267 nm excitation. The delineated mechanistic insights into the nitro-substituent-location-, protonation-, solvent-, and excitation-wavelength-dependent effects on nitrophenols, in conjunction with the ultraviolet-light-induced degradation of 2NP in water, substantiates an appealing discovery loop to characterize and engineer functional molecules for environmental applications. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2024
  9. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 9, 2024