The appearance of several absorption peaks or shoulders for a given chromophore is common for highly conjugated systems, and is often solvent dependent. This fine structure reflects not only the different conformations such systems may assume, but also electronic transitions between the different vibrational energy levels possible for each electronic state. Vibrational fine structure of this kind is most pronounced in vapor phase spectra, and is increasingly broadened and obscured in solution as the solvent is changed from hexane to methanol.
Nature of Shift
|To Longer Wavelength||Bathochromic|
|To Shorter Wavelength||Hypsochromic|
|To Greater Absorbance||Hyperchromic|
|To Lower Absorbance||Hypochromic|
The following diagram illustrates this excitation for an isolated double bond (only two pi-orbitals) and, on clicking the diagram, for a conjugated diene and triene. In each case the HOMO is colored blue and the LUMO is colored magenta. Increased conjugation brings the HOMO and LUMO orbitals closer together. The energy (ΔE) required to effect the electron promotion is therefore less, and the wavelength that provides this energy is increased correspondingly (remember λ = h • c/ΔE ).
Examples of π __> π* Excitation
Benzene exhibits very strong light absorption near 180 nm (ε > 65,000) , weaker absorption at 200 nm (ε = 8,000) and a group of much weaker bands at 254 nm (ε = 240). Only the last group of absorptions are completely displayed because of the 200 nm cut-off characteristic of most spectrophotometers. The added conjugation in naphthalene, anthracene and tetracene causes bathochromic shifts of these absorption bands, as displayed in the chart on the left below. All the absorptions do not shift by the same amount, so for anthracene (green shaded box) and tetracene (blue shaded box) the weak absorption is obscured by stronger bands that have experienced a greater red shift. As might be expected from their spectra, naphthalene and anthracene are colorless, but tetracene is orange.
The spectrum of the bicyclic diene (above right) shows some vibrational fine structure, but in general is similar in appearance to that of isoprene, shown above. Closer inspection discloses that the absorption maximum of the more highly substituted diene has moved to a longer wavelength by about 15 nm. This "substituent effect" is general for dienes and trienes, and is even more pronounced for enone chromophores.