Whilst the excitonic properties of J-aggregates have been investigated in great detail, those of H-aggregates have not been systematically investigated yet. In this regard, we have explored the exciton dynamics and excited-species formation processes in columnar H-aggregates of planar PBI dyes that are stacked in a helical fashion by various spectroscopic techniques such as time correlated single-photon counting and femtosecond pump–probe measurements with anisotropy changes. The outcome of this study is that photogenerated excitons in helically stacked PBI dyes experience complicated relaxation processes that involve excited-state interactions such as exciton delocalization and excimer formation. To scrutinize the exciton dynamics in the helically stacked aggregates, we have also included distorted bay-substituted PBI dyes as reference molecules that exhibit either no or only relatively small-sized dimeric aggregate structures. The comparative study revealed that the excited-state interactions in the large-sized helically stacked aggregates extend beyond two PBI units, leading to a final excimer (here, excimer means not only an “excited dimer” but an “excited multimer”) trap state within ∼50 ps. Although in competition with this relaxation path into the excimeric trap state, exciton diffusion has been revealed by exciton–exciton annihilation processes, occurring at high excitation power. Whilst the excimer formation process interrupts the direct observation of exciton diffusion in these columnar PBI aggregates, the exciton migration distance could be estimated by the incorporation of non-fluorescent PBI quencher molecules. From this analysis we can conclude that the exciton diffusion can reach a length of about 10 monomer units. Although this value appears to be shorter than those values observed for J-aggregates, this result shows that columnar PBI stacks might still be useful for optoelectronic applications if the relaxation process leading to excimer traps is prevented, e.g. by structural modifications of the molecules.
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