In this perspective we introduce the basic photophysics of the excited-state intramolecular proton transfer (ESIPT) chromophores, then the state-of-the-art development of the ESIPT chromophores and their applications in chemosensors, biological imaging and white-light emitting materials are summarized. Most of the applications of the ESIPT chromophores are based on the photophysics properties, such as design of fluorescent chemosensors by perturbation of the ESIPT process upon interaction with the analytes, their use as biological fluorescent tags to study DNA–protein interaction by probing the variation of the hydration, or design of white-light emitting materials by employing the large Stokes shift of the ESIPT chromophores (to inhibit the Föster energy transfer of the components). The photophysical mechanism of these applications is discussed. Furthermore, a new research topic concerning the ESIPT chromophores is proposed based on our group's results, that is, to develop organic triplet sensitizers with ESIPT chromophores.
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