FRET-enhanced photoluminescence of perylene diimides by combining molecular aggregation and insulation†
The photoluminescence quantum yield (ϕPL) of perylene diimide derivatives (PDIs) is often limited by aggregation caused quenching (ACQ) at high concentration or in the neat solid-state. Energy transfer in high dye concentration systems is also a key factor in determining ϕPL as a result of energy funneling to trap sites in the sample. By tuning the substituents, we present two classes of PDIs with aggregation and insulation of the PDI core. By combining these fluorophores in a polymer film, we demonstrate highly emissive samples (85% ϕPL) at high concentration (140 mM or 20% w/w). Experimental and theoretical studies provide insight into why such a combination is necessary to achieve high ϕPL. While insulated fluorophores maintain respectable ϕPL at high concentration, an improved ϕPL can be achieved in the presence of appropriately oriented fluorophore aggregates as emissive traps. The theoretical calculations show that the relative orientation of aggregated monomers can result in energetic separation of localized states from the charge-transfer and bi-excitonic states thereby enabling high ϕPL.