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Dye molecules that absorb light in the visible region are key components in many applications, including organic photovoltaics, biological fluorescent labeling, super-resolution microscopy, and energy transport. One family of dyes, known as squaraines, has received considerable attention recently due to their favorable electronic and photophysical properties. In addition, these dyes have a strong propensity for aggregation, which results in emergent materials properties, such as exciton delocalization. This will be of benefit in charge separation and energy transport along with fundamental studies in quantum information. Given the high structural tunability of squaraine dyes, it is possible that exciton delocalization could be tailored by modifying the substituents attached to the π-conjugated network. To date, limited theoretical studies have explored the role of substituent effects on the electronic and photophysical properties of squaraines in the context of DNA-templated dye aggregates and resultant excitonic behavior. We used ab initio theoretical methods to determine the effects of substituents on the electronic and photophysical properties for a series of nine different squaraine dyes. Solvation free energy was also investigated as an insight into changes in hydrophobic behavior from substituents. The role of molecular symmetry on these properties was also explored via conformation and substitution. We found that substituent effects are correlated with the empirical Hammett constant, which demonstrates their electron donating or electron withdrawing strength. Electron withdrawing groups were found to impact solvation free energy, transition dipole moment, static dipole difference, and absorbance more than electron donating groups. All substituents showed a redshift in absorption for the squaraine dye. In addition, solvation free energy increases with Hammett constant. This work represents a first step toward establishing design rules for dyes with desired properties for excitonic applications.


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.