From wavelike to sub-diffusive motion: exciton dynamics and interaction in squaraine copolymers of varying length†
Exciton transport and exciton–exciton interactions in molecular aggregates and polymers are of great importance in natural photosynthesis, organic electronics, and related areas of research. Both the experimental observation and theoretical description of these processes across time and length scales, including the transition from the initial wavelike motion to the following long-range exciton transport, are highly challenging. Therefore, while exciton dynamics at small scales are often treated explicitly, long-range exciton transport is typically described phenomenologically by normal diffusion. In this work, we study the transition from wavelike to diffusive motion of interacting exciton pairs in squaraine copolymers of varying length. To this end we use a combination of the recently introduced exciton–exciton-interaction two-dimensional (EEI2D) electronic spectroscopy and microscopic theoretical modelling. As we show by comparison with the model, the experimentally observed kinetics include three phases, wavelike motion dominated by immediate exciton–exciton annihilation (10–100 fs), sub-diffusive behavior (0.1–10 ps), and excitation relaxation (0.01–1 ns). We demonstrate that the key quantity for the transition from wavelike to diffusive dynamics is the exciton delocalization length relative to the length of the polymer: while in short polymers wavelike motion of rapidly annihilating excitons dominates, in long polymers the excitons become locally trapped and exhibit sub-diffusive behavior. Our findings indicate that exciton transport through conjugated systems emerging from the excitonic structure is generally not governed by normal diffusion. Instead, to characterize the material transport properties, the diffusion presence and character should be determined.