Thermally activated delayed fluorescent phenothiazine–dibenzo[a,j]phenazine–phenothiazine triads exhibiting tricolor-changing mechanochromic luminescence
Novel U-shaped donor–acceptor–donor (D–A–D) π-conjugated multi-functional molecules comprising dibenzo[a,j]phenazine (DBPHZ) as an acceptor and phenothiazines (PTZ) as donors have been developed. Most importantly, the D–A–D compounds exhibit not only distinct tricolor-changeable mechanochromic luminescence (MCL) properties but also efficient thermally activated delayed fluorescence (TADF). Quantum chemical calculations, X-ray diffraction analysis, and systematic studies on the photophysical properties indicated that the “two-conformation-switchable” PTZ units play a highly important role in achieving multi-color-changing MCL. Time-resolved photophysical measurements revealed that the developed D–A–D compounds also exhibit efficient orange-TADF. Furthermore, organic light-emitting diode (OLED) devices fabricated with the new TADF emitters have achieved high external quantum efficiencies (EQEs) up to 16.8%, which significantly exceeds the theoretical maximum (∼5%) of conventional fluorescent emitters.