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Issue 22, 2017
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Pendant chain engineering to fine-tune the nanomorphologies and solid state luminescence of naphthalimide AIEEgens: application to phenolic nitro-explosive detection in water

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Abstract

Strategically, a series of five angular “V” shaped naphthalimide AIEEgens with varying pendant chains (butyl, hexyl, octyl, cyclohexyl and methylcyclohexyl) have been synthesized to fine-tune their nanomorphological and photophysical properties. With similar aromatic cores and electronic states, unexpected tuning of the condensed state emission colors and nanomorphologies (reproducible on any kind of surface) of naphthalimides has been achieved for the first time simply by varying their side chains. Conclusive analysis by various spectroscopic techniques (SC-XRD, powder-XRD, DLS, FESEM) and DFT computational studies confirmed the full control of the pendant chain (in terms of bulkiness around the naphthalimide core, which restricts the ease of intermolecular π–π interactions) over the nanoaggregate morphology and solid state emissive properties of the AIEEgens; this can be rationalized to all aggregation-prone systems. These comprehensive studies establish a conceptually unique yet simple and effective method to precisely tune the nanomorphologies and the emission colors of aggregation-prone small organic molecules by judicious choice of the non-conjugated pendant chain. Thus, considering the prime role of the active layer nanomorphology in all organic optoelectronic devices, this methodology may emerge as a promising tool to improve device performance. Among all the congeners, the hexyl chain-containing congener (HNQ) forms well-defined nanoribbons with smaller diameters (as confirmed from DLS: 166 nm and FESEM: 150 nm) and provides a larger surface area. Consequently, the HNQ-nanoribbons were employed as a fluorescent sensor for the discriminative detection of trinitrophenol (TNP) in pure aqueous media. FE-SEM images revealed that, upon gradual addition of TNP (10 nM to 100 μM), these nanoribbons undergo an aggregation/disaggregation process, forming non-fluorescent co-aggregates with TNP, and provide highly enhanced sensitivity compared to existing state-of-the-art on aggregation-prone systems. Fluorescence titration studies confirmed that HNQ can detect the presence of TNP as low as 16.8 ppb and can serve as a cost-effective portable device incorporated with UV-light for on-site visual detection of TNP, even in the presence of potentially competing nitroaromatic compounds.

Graphical abstract: Pendant chain engineering to fine-tune the nanomorphologies and solid state luminescence of naphthalimide AIEEgens: application to phenolic nitro-explosive detection in water

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Publication details

The article was received on 27 Mar 2017, accepted on 07 May 2017 and first published on 10 May 2017


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C7NR02174G
Citation: Nanoscale, 2017,9, 7674-7685
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    Pendant chain engineering to fine-tune the nanomorphologies and solid state luminescence of naphthalimide AIEEgens: application to phenolic nitro-explosive detection in water

    N. Meher and P. K. Iyer, Nanoscale, 2017, 9, 7674
    DOI: 10.1039/C7NR02174G

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