Water-tunable solvatochromic and nanoaggregate fluorescence: dual colour visualisation and quantification of trace water in tetrahydrofuran†
While investigating the unique optical properties of aminobenzopyranoxanthenes (ABPXs), organic fluorescent dyes with the fusion of two rhodamines, we have found that the spirolactone form of ABPXs exhibited solvatochromic fluorescence in organic solvents. Detailed spectrophotometric and theoretical analyses showed that the solvatochromic fluorescence of ABPXs originated from the photo-excited charge separation in solvents of different dipolarities. Further studies revealed that fluorescent nanoaggregates were also formed in highly concentrated solution. The intriguing dual fluorescence properties of ABPXs were tunable in response to the water content, and served as a new detection principle for naked-eye visualisation (above 0.5 wt%) and quantification (0.010–0.125 wt%) of water in tetrahydrofuran.