Sonocrystallization Induced Thermally Activated Delayed Fluorescence via Distortion of Molecular Geometry


In this work we present three donor-acceptor thermally activated delayed fluorescence (TADF) molecules comprising a 2,3,5,6-tetrafluorobenzonitrile acceptor with various electron donor units: phenoxazine (Phx-BzN), phenothiazine (Pht-BzN), and carbazole (Cz-BzN). These molecules have been studied using steady-state and time-resolved photophysical techniques in solution, film and in crystal state. While Cz-BzN displays TADF in solution and PMMA films, Phx-BzN and Pht-BzN are non-emissive in solution and somewhat emissive in polymer films. More interestingly, while Pht-BzN remains virtually non-emissive in all studied solvents, it exhibits strong photoluminescence and TADF in crystal state, attributed to Crystallization Induced Emission (CIE). We demonstrate through computational studies that the CIE properties arise due to intermolecular interactions in the crystal structure that result in locking the ground state molecular geometry and blocking relaxation in the excited state. As a result, the oscillator strength in the crystal form is enhanced leading to a highly luminescent behaviour, while in solution it equals nearly zero due to the molecule adopting a perfectly orthogonal D-A orientation in the excited state.


Supplementary material

Electronic supplementary information (ESI)
Additional photophysics and computational results. Supplementary crystallographic and electrochemistry data.