Coupling molecular rigidity and flexibility on fused backbones for NIR-II photothermal conversion†
Great attention is being increasingly paid to photothermal conversion in the near-infrared (NIR)-II window (1000–1350 nm), where deeper tissue penetration is favored. To date, only a limited number of organic photothermal polymers and relevant theory have been exploited to direct the molecular design of polymers with highly efficient photothermal conversion, specifically in the NIR-II window. This work proposes a fused backbone structure locked via an intramolecular hydrogen bonding interaction and double bond, which favors molecular planarity and rigidity in the ground state and molecular flexibility in the excited state. Following this proposal, a particular class of NIR-II photothermal polymers are prepared. Their remarkable photothermal conversion efficiency is in good agreement with our strategy of coupling polymeric rigidity and flexibility, which accounts for the improved light absorption on going from the ground state to the excited state and nonradiative emission on going from the excited state to the ground state. It is envisioned that such a concept of coupling polymeric rigidity and flexibility will offer great inspiration for developing NIR-II photothermal polymers with the use of other chromophores.