Donor–acceptor–acceptor-type near-infrared fluorophores that contain dithienophosphole oxide and boryl groups: effect of the boryl group on the nonradiative decay†
The use of donor–π–acceptor (D–π–A) skeletons is an effective strategy for the design of fluorophores with red-shifted emission. In particular, the use of amino and boryl moieties as the electron-donating and -accepting groups, respectively, can produce dyes that exhibit high fluorescence and solvatochromism. Herein, we introduce a dithienophosphole P-oxide scaffold as an acceptor–spacer to produce a boryl- and amino-substituted donor–acceptor–acceptor (D–A–A) π-system. The thus obtained fluorophores exhibit emission in the near-infrared (NIR) region, while maintaining high fluorescence quantum yields even in polar solvents (e.g. λem = 704 nm and ΦF = 0.69 in CH3CN). A comparison of these compounds with their formyl- or cyano-substituted counterparts demonstrated the importance of the boryl group for generating intense emission. The differences among these electron-accepting substituents were examined in detail using theoretical calculations, which revealed the crucial role of the boryl group in lowering the nonradiative decay rate constant by decreasing the non-adiabatic coupling in the internal conversion process. The D–A–A framework was further fine-tuned to improve the photostability. One of these D–A–A dyes was successfully used in bioimaging to visualize the blood vessels of Japanese medaka larvae and mouse brain.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2021 Chemical Science HOT Article Collection