Sensitive Mechanocontrolled Luminescence in Cross-Linked Polymer Films

Direct translation of mechanical force into changes in chemical behavior on a molecular level has important implication not only for the fundamental understanding of mechanochemical processes, but also for the development of new stimuli-responsive materials. In particular, detection of mechanical stress in polymers via non-destructive methods is important in order to prevent material failure and to study the mechanical properties of soft matter. Herein, we report that highly sensitive changes in photoluminescence intensity can be observed in response to the mechanical stretching of cross-linked polymer films when using stable, (pyridinophane)Cu-based dynamic mechanophores. Upon stretching, the luminescence intensity increases in a fast and reversible manner even at small strain (< 50%) and applied stress (< 0.1 MPa) values. Such sensitivity is unprecedented when compared to previously reported systems based on organic mechanophores. The system also allows for the detection of weak mechanical stress by spectroscopic measurements or by direct visual methods.