Heavy atom oriented orbital angular momentum manipulation in metal-free organic phosphors†
Metal-free purely organic phosphors (POPs) are emerging materials for display technologies, solid-state lighting, and chemical sensors. However, due to limitations in contemporary design strategies, the intrinsic spin–orbit coupling (SOC) efficiency of POPs remains low and their emission lifetime is pinned in the millisecond regime. Here, we present a design concept for POPs where the two main factors that control SOC—the heavy atom effect and orbital angular momentum—are tightly coupled to maximize SOC. This strategy is bolstered by novel natural-transition-orbital-based computational methods to visualize and quantify angular momentum descriptors for molecular design. To demonstrate the effectiveness of this strategy, prototype POPs were created having efficient room-temperature phosphorescence with lifetimes pushed below the millisecond regime, which were enabled by boosted SOC efficiencies beyond 102 cm−1 and achieved record-high efficiencies in POPs. Electronic structure analysis shows how discrete tuning of heavy atom effects and orbital angular momentum is possible within the proposed design strategy, leading to a strong degree of control over the resulting POP properties.