Small-molecules (SM) have attracted a great deal of attention in the field of solar energy conversion due to their unique properties compared to polymers, such as well-defined molecular weight and lack of regio-isomeric impurities. Furthermore, these materials can be synthesized in a variety of configurational architectures, representing an opportunity for tailoring chemical and optical properties that could lead to a better photocatalytic efficiency for hydrogen generation. Here, we evaluate by means of density functional theory (DFT) and time-dependent DFT methods a set of small-molecules with A-D-A architecture (A-acceptor; D- donor) based on well-known building blocks like thiophene (T), cyclopentadithiophene (CPT) and benzothiadiazole (BT) as potential candidates for photocatalytic hydrogen evolution reaction (HER). We also propose i) the replacement of the thiophene unit by 3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene (EDOT) to form with CPT unit an extended donor core ii) an additional acceptor unit, the 1,3,4-thiadiazole, in the extremities and iii) insertion of the difluoromethoxy (DFM) as substituent in the BT unit. Our outcomes reveal that these materials have a broad absorption spectrum with λ= 318-719 nm, being the most intense absorption peak originated from an electronic transition with charge-transfer nature, as the spatial distribution of LUMO is concentrated on the acceptor units for all materials. Moreover, these small-molecules not only present catalytic power or thermodynamic driving force to carry out the chemical reactions involved in the process of hydrogen production, but can be coupled in cooperative photocatalytic systems to promote intramolecular charge transfer that is expected to boost the overall photocatalytic efficiency of these materials.
J. Phys. Chem. C 2019,