Polariton-assisted manipulation of energy relaxation pathways: donor–acceptor role reversal in a tuneable microcavity†
Resonant interaction between excitonic transitions of molecules and localized electromagnetic field allows the formation of hybrid light–matter polaritonic states. This hybridization of the light and the matter states has been shown to significantly alter the intrinsic properties of molecular ensembles placed inside the optical cavity. Here, we have observed strong coupling of excitonic transition in a pair of closely located organic dye molecules demonstrating an efficient donor-to-acceptor resonance energy transfer with the mode of a tuneable open-access cavity. Analysing the dependence of the relaxation pathways between energy states in this system on the cavity detuning, we have demonstrated that predominant strong coupling of the cavity photon to the exciton transition in the donor dye molecule can lead not only to an increase in the donor–acceptor energy transfer, but also to an energy shift large enough to cause inversion between the energy states of the acceptor and the mainly donor lower polariton energy state. Furthermore, we have shown that the polariton-assisted donor–acceptor chromophores' role reversal or “carnival effect” not only changes the relative energy levels of the donor–acceptor pair, but also makes it possible to manipulate the energy flow in the systems with resonant dipole–dipole interaction and direct energy transfer from the acceptor to the mainly donor lower polariton state. Our experimental data are the first confirmation of the theoretically predicted possibility of polariton-assisted energy transfer reversal in FRET systems, thus paving the way to new avenues in FRET-imaging, remote-controlled chemistry, and all-optical switching.