Building a detailed understanding of the structure–function relationship is a crucial step in the optimization of molecular photocatalysts employed in water splitting schemes. The optically dark nature of their active sites usually prevents a complete mapping of the photoinduced dynamics. In this work, transient X-ray absorption spectroscopy highlights the electronic and geometric changes that affect such a center in a bimetallic model complex. Upon selective excitation of the ruthenium chromophore, the cobalt moiety is reduced through intramolecular electron transfer and undergoes a spin flip accompanied by an average bond elongation of 0.20 ± 0.03 Å. The analysis is supported by simulations based on density functional theory structures (B3LYP*/TZVP) and FEFF 9.0 multiple scattering calculations. More generally, these results exemplify the large potential of the technique for tracking elusive intermediates that impart unique functionalities in photochemical devices.
Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, 2013, Vol 4, Issue 11, p. 1972-1976