Beyond förster resonance energy transfer in biological and nanoscale systems

David Beljonne, Carles Curutchet, Gregory D. Scholes, Robert J. Silbey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

396 Scopus citations


After photoexcitation, energy absorbed by a molecule can be transferred efficiently over a distance of up to several tens of angstroms to another molecule by the process of resonance energy transfer, RET (also commonly known as electronic energy transfer, EET). Examples of where RET is observed include natural and artificial antennae for the capture and energy conversion of light, amplification of fluorescence-based sensors, optimization of organic light-emitting diodes, and the measurement of structure in biological systems (FRET). Förster theory has proven to be very successful at estimating the rate of RET in many donor - acceptor systems, but it has also been of interest to discover when this theory does not work. By identifying these cases, researchers have been able to obtain, sometimes surprising, insights into excited-state dynamics in complex systems. In this article, we consider various ways that electronic energy transfer is promoted by mechanisms beyond those explicitly considered in Förster RET theory. First, we recount the important situations when the electronic coupling is not accurately calculated by the dipole - dipole approximation. Second, we examine the related problem of how to describe solvent screening when the dipole approximation fails. Third, there are situations where we need to be careful about the separability of electronic coupling and spectral overlap factors. For example, when the donors and/or acceptors are molecular aggregates rather than individual molecules, then RET occurs between molecular exciton states and we must invoke generalized Förster theory (GFT). In even more complicated cases, involving the intermediate regime of electronic energy transfer, we should consider carefully nonequilibrium processes and coherences and how bath modes can be shared. Lastly, we discuss how information is obscured by various forms of energetic disorder in ensemble measurements and we outline how single molecule experiments continue to be important in these instances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6583-6599
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 14 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Materials Chemistry


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