Triangular boron carbon nitrides: an unexplored family of chromophores with unique properties for photocatalysis and optoelectronics†
It has recently been shown that cycl[3.3.3]azine and heptazine (1,3,4,6,7,9,9b-heptaazaphenalene) as well as related azaphenalenes exhibit inverted singlet and triplet states, that is, the energy of the lowest singlet excited state (S1) is below the energy of the lowest triplet excited state (T1). This feature is unique among all known aromatic chromophores and is of outstanding relevance for applications in photocatalysis and organic optoelectronics. Heptazine is the building block of the polymeric material graphitic carbon nitride which is an extensively explored photocatalyst in hydrogen evolution photocatalysis. Derivatives of heptazine have also been identified as efficient emitters in organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs). In both areas, the inverted singlet–triplet gap of heptazine is a highly beneficial feature. In photocatalysis, the absence of a long-lived triplet state eliminates the activation of atmospheric oxygen, which is favourable for long-term operational stability. In optoelectronics, singlet–triplet inversion implies the possibility of 100% fluorescence efficiency of electron–hole recombination. However, the absorption and luminescence wavelengths of heptazine and the S1–S0 transition dipole moment are difficult to tune for optimal functionality. In this work, we employed high-level ab initio electronic structure theory to devise and characterize a large family of novel heteroaromatic chromophores, the triangular boron carbon nitrides. These novel heterocycles inherit essential spectroscopic features from heptazine, in particular the inverted singlet–triplet gap, while their absorption and luminescence spectra and transition dipole moments are widely tuneable. For applications in photocatalysis, the wavelength of the absorption maximum can be tuned to improve the overlap with the solar spectrum at the surface of earth. For applications in OLEDs, the colour of emission can be adjusted and the fluorescence yield can be enhanced.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2021 PCCP HOT Articles