Enhanced Solid-State Fluorescence of Flavin Derivatives by Incorporation in the Metal-Organic Frameworks MIL-53(Al) and MOF-5
The flavin derivatives 10-methyl-isoalloxazine (MIA) and 6-fluoro-10-methyl-isoalloxazine (6F-MIA) were incorporated in two alternative metal-organic frameworks, (MOFs) MIL-53(Al) and MOF-5. We used a post-synthetic, diffusion-based incorporation into microcrystalline MIL-53 powders with one-dimensional (1D) pores and an in-situ approach during the synthesis of MOF-5 with its 3D channel network. The maximum amount of flavin dye incorporation is 3.9 wt% for MIA@MIL-53(Al) and 1.5 wt% for 6F-MIA@MIL-53(Al), 0.85 wt% for MIA@MOF-5 and 5.2 wt% for 6F-MIA@MOF-5. For the high incorporation yields the probability to have more than one dye molecule in a pore volume is significant. As compared to the flavins in solution, the fluorescence spectrum of these flavin@MOF composites is broadened at the bathocromic side especially for MIA. Time-resolved spectroscopy showed that multi-exponential fluorescence lifetimes were needed to describe the decays. The fluorescence-weighted lifetime of flavin@MOF of 4 ± 1 ns also corresponds to those in solution but is significantly prolonged compared to the solid flavin dyes with less than 1 ns, thereby confirming the concept of “solid solutions” for dye@MOF composites. The fluorescence quantum yield ( Φ F ) of the flavin@MOF composites is about half of the solution but is significantly higher compared to the solid flavin dyes. Both the fluorescence lifetime and quantum yield of flavin@MOF decrease with the flavin loading in MIL-53 due to the formation of various J-aggregates. Theoretical calculations using plane-wave and QM/MM methods are in good correspondence with the experimental results and explain the electronic structures as well as the photophysical properties of crystalline MIA and the flavin@MOF composites. In the solid flavins, π-stacking interactions of the molecules lead to a charge transfer state with low oscillator strength resulting in aggregation-caused quenching (ACQ) with low lifetimes and quantum yields. In the MOF pores, single flavin molecules represent a major population and the computed MIA@MOF structures do not find π-stacking interactions with the pore walls but only weak van-der-Waals contacts which reasons the enhanced fluorescence lifetime and quantum yield of the flavins in the composites compared to their neat solid state. To analyze the orientation of flavins in MOFs, we measured fluorescence anisotropy images of single flavin@MOF-5 crystals and a static ensemble flavin@MIL53 microcrystals, respectively. Based on image information, anisotropy distributions and overall curve of the time-resolved anisotropy curves combined with theoretical calculations, we can prove that all fluorescent flavins species have a defined and rather homogeneous orientation in the MOF framework. In MIL-53, the transition dipole moments of flavins are orientated along the 1D channel axis, whereas in MOF-5 we resolved an average orientation that is tilted with respect to the cubic crystal lattice. Notably, the more hydrophobic 6F-MIA exhibits a higher degree order than MIA. The flexible MOF MIL-53(Al) was optimized essentially to the experimental large-pore form in the guest-free state with QuantumEspresso (QE) and with MIA molecules in the pores the structure contracted to close to the experimental narrow-pore form which was also confirmed by PXRD. In summary, the incorporation of flavins in MOFs yields solid-state materials with enhanced rigidity, stabilized conformation, defined orientation and reduced aggregations of the flavins, leading to increased fluorescence lifetime and quantum yield as controllable photo-luminescent and photo-physical properties.