White-light emission from a single heavy atom-free molecule with room temperature phosphorescence, mechanochromism and thermochromism†
Two heavy atom-free luminophores (SHB2t and SDB2t) with simple molecular structures have been synthesized via Suzuki coupling reactions in which both display white-light emission with prompt fluorescence and room temperature phosphorescence (RTP) in the solid state. The impressive RTP of the luminophores is produced by a synergistic effect of the strong intermolecular hydrogen bonding in addition to the spin–orbit coupling of the sulfonyl oxygen atoms and the moderate singlet-triplet energy gaps (ΔEST). These factors facilitate the intersystem crossing (ISC) process to generate triplet excitons in which the molecular conformations become immobilized to effectively suppress radiationless decay. Under the stimuli of mechanical force and solvent vapor, the RTP of SHB2t and SDB2t can be simply turned off and on by breaking and reforming the robust hydrogen bonding, which leads to remarkable and reversible mechanochromism between white and deep-blue emission. Moreover, two different thermochromic processes have been observed for the pristine and ground samples of SDB2t, in which a tricolor switching system between white, deep-blue and blue emission has been successfully achieved through the sequential control of grinding, heating and fuming. From detailed studies we have determined that the mechanism for the thermochromism of SDB2t is correlated with the rearrangement of the white-light emitting molecules to a new packing mode without RTP emission.