Fluorescein prototropism within poly(ethylene glycol)s and their aqueous mixtures

Ambika Bhagi, Shubha Pandey, Ashish Pandey, Siddharth Pandey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Depending on the solubilizing milieu and conditions, fluorescein may exist in one or more of its many prototropic forms [cationic, neutral (zwitterionic, quinoid, and lactone), monoanionic (phenolate and carboxylate), and dianionic]. Fluorescein prototropism is investigated in liquid poly(ethylene glycol)s (PEGs) of different average molecular weight (MW) and their aqueous mixtures using UV-vis absorbance along with static and time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopic techniques. Information regarding various prototropic forms of fluorescein in up to 30 wt % different average MW PEG-added aqueous buffers at varying pH reveals that addition of PEG causes lactonization of fluorescein in the milieu; higher the average MW of PEG, the more the lactonization is. Neat PEG200, PEG400, and PEG600 are found to support the dianionic form of fluorescein, while PEG1000 supports the neutral lactonized form. It is demonstrated that various prototropic forms of fluorescein may be generated within PEGs by addition of adequate amounts of acidic aqueous buffer. Significant bathochromic shift in absorbance and fluorescence band maxima of dianionic fluorescein as concentration of PEG200 is increased correlates well with hydrogen bond accepting basicity, hydrogen bond donating acidity, and dipolarity/ polarizability of the aqueous PEG200 mixture. Interestingly, fluorescence emission from the cationic form of fluorescein is observed from dilute aqueous acidic media in the presence of high concentration of PEG200, whereas the fluorescence emission from cation in the absence of PEG200 is observed only from aqueous solutions of very high acidity >5 M H+. Excited-state intensity decay is also used to support this outcome. It is proposed that, in the presence of a small amount of acid in PEG200, a highly acidic water-rich solvation microenvironment is formed around fluorescein, which converts its dianionic form to cationic form and considerably hinders the rapid deprotonation of the excited state of the cationic form.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5230-5240
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number17
StatePublished - May 2 2013
Externally publishedYes


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