Designing interchain and intrachain properties of conjugated polymers for latent optical information encoding†
Building molecular-design insights for controlling both the intrachain and the interchain properties of conjugated polymers (CPs) is essential to determine their characteristics and to optimize their performance in applications. However, most CP designs have focused on the conjugated main chain to control the intrachain properties, while the design of side chains is usually used to render CPs soluble, even though the side chains critically affect the interchain packing. Here, we present a straightforward and effective design strategy for modifying the optical and electrochemical properties of diketopyrrolopyrrole-based CPs by controlling both the intrachain and interchain properties in a single system. The synthesized polymers, P1, P2 and P3, show almost identical optical absorption spectra in solution, manifesting essentially the same intrachain properties of the three CPs having restricted effective conjugation along the main chain. However, the absorption spectra of CP films are gradually tuned by controlling the interchain packing through the side-chain design. Based on the tailored optical properties, we demonstrate the encoding of latent optical information utilizing the CPs as security inks on a silica substrate, which reveals and conceals hidden information upon the reversible aggregation/deaggregation of CPs.