Illuminating the Photophysics of Oxygen Atom Transfer in Rare Earth Metal-Organic Complexes

Melissa Gish, Kevin Ruoff, Justin Johnson, Eric Schelter, Andrew Ferguson

Research output: NRELPresentation


Industrial separations of rare earth metals are reliant on selectivity based on ionic radii, which are time, energy, and resource consuming.1 The unique and discontinuous manifold of energy states associated with the f-electron configurations of the rare earth ions2 offer an opportunity to overcome some of these limitations by incorporating light into the separation process. Here, we use transient absorption spectroscopy to understand the differences in mechanism of light-initiated oxygen atom transfer (OAT) in yttrium (Y) and dysprosium (Dy) rare earth complexes. These metal-organic complexes are functionalized with hexfluoroacetyl-acetonate (hfac) and 4-methylmorpholine-N-oxide (NMMO). After light absorption in the presence of triphenyl phosphine (TPP), the NMMO in the Y-NMMO complex is replaced by the TPPO OAT reaction product. Because the Dy f-electron manifold is accessible to the ligand excited states, while there are no accessible states associated with f-electrons for Y, there are significant differences in reactivity. Transient absorption spectroscopy (TAS) was used to monitor changes after 340 nm photoexcitation of Dy/Y-NMMO or the product complex Dy/Y-TPPO. TAS is a pump-probe technique where a white light probe pulse is delayed relative to a visible pump pulse, which photoexcites a sample. Differences between the ground and excited states are monitored over time. With TAS, we access time scales from 100 fs-400 us to determine the photophysics of the complexes of interest. Photoexcitation of Y-NMMO (Fig. 1A) creates a broad photoinduced absorption (PIA) that evolves into a sharp positive feature over 4.2 ps centered at 450 nm. A secondary feature centered at 550 nm grows in with a 200 ps time constant and remains through the 5 ns time window of our experiment. Control experiments for Y-TPPO reveal that the feature at 450 nm is due to internal dynamics of the hfac ligand, while the 550 nm shoulder is due to the presence of the NMMO. Comparing kinetics at 550 nm for Y-NMMO and Dy-NMMO (Fig. 1B) shows that while Y exhibits a distinct growth in the NMMO feature, the Dy decays almost completely within 5 ns. Control experiments with Dy-TPPO prove that the ligand excited states centered on the hfac ligand are deactivated via energy transfer to the Dy manifold within 200 ps. This deactivation leads to significant differences in OAT reactivity between Y and Dy.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages43
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePresented at the 29th Rare Earth Research Conference, 26-30 June 2022, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5900-83531


  • energy transfer
  • oxygen atom transfer
  • rare earth
  • transient absorption
  • ultrafast spectroscopy


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