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Absorption Spectrum of the Firefly Luciferin Anion Isolated in Vacuo

Authors: Kristian Støchkel, Bruce F. Milne, and Steen Brøndsted Nielsen

Ref.: Journal of Physical Chemistry A 115 (11), 2155-2159 (2011)

Abstract: The excited-state physics of the firefly luciferin anion depends on its chemical environment, and it is therefore important to establish the intrinsic behavior of the bare ion. Here we report electronic absorption spectra of the anion isolated in vacuo obtained at an electrostatic ion storage ring and an accelerator mass spectrometer where ionic dissociation is monitored on a long time scale (from 33 μs and up to 3 ms) and on a short time scale (0−3 μs), respectively. In the ring experiment the yield of all neutrals (mainly CO2) as a function of wavelength was measured whereas in the single pass experiment, the abundance of daughter ions formed after loss of CO2 was recorded to provide action spectra. We find maxima at 535 and 265 nm, and that the band shape is largely determined by the sampling time interval, which is due to the kinetics of the dissociation process. Calculations at the TD-B3LYP/TZVPP++ level predict maximum absorption at 533 and 275 nm for the carboxylate isomer in excellent agreement with the experimental findings. The phenolate isomer lies higher in energy by 0.22 eV, and also its absorption maximum is calculated to be at 463 nm, which is far away from the experimental value. Our data serve to benchmark future theoretical models for bioluminescence from fireflies.

DOI: 10.1021/jp110120c