Journal of the American Chemical Society vol:122 issue:14 pages:3445-3452
Higher generations of poly(propylene imine) dendrimers functionalized with aliphatic chains form large micrometer-sized spherical objects in aqueous solution below pH 8. These spheres are giant vesicles with a multilaminar onion-like structure. The size distribution and the structure of the vesicles depend on the pH of the solution and the endgroups at the periphery of the dendrimer. The vesicles containing azobenzene units (2 and 3) fluoresce with a maximum at lambda(max) = 600 nm. This emission can be attributed to the dense and ordered arrangement of the azobenzene chromophores in the bilayer structure. Laser irradiation of a small area of giant vesicles of 2 or 3 with 1064 and/or 420 nm light leads to changes in the morphology of the vesicles. Infrared light induces a rearrangement, whereas the azobenzene units isomerize under the influence of 420 nm light. Both irradiations lead to a change in refractive index in the illuminated area. Irradiation using 420 nm light is accompanied by an increase in the emission intensity. In aqueous solutions at pH 1, the increase in fluorescence intensity is concurrent with a blue shift of the emission maximum to 540 nm. This blue shift is not observed when the experiment is performed in Milli Q water (pH 5.5). The enhanced fluorescence can be attributed to reorganization of the chromophores within the giant vesicle. The increase in emission proves that the giant vesicle is a kinetically formed system that reaches a thermodynamically more relaxed state after light-induced isomerization.