Fluorescence Modulation in Polymer Bilayers Containing Fluorescent and Photochromic Dopants


  • We thank the National Science Foundation (CAREER Award CHE-0237578) for financial support and the University of Miami for a Robert E. Maytag Fellowship to S.G.


We have identified viable operating principles for the modulation of optical signals under the influence of optical stimulations. They are based on the overlap between the emission bands of a fluorescent compound and the absorption bands of one of the two forms of a bistable photochromic switch. Under these conditions, the photoinduced interconversion of the two states of the photochrome modulates efficiently the emission intensity of the fluorophore. We have implemented this mechanism for intermolecular fluorescence modulation with multilayer structures. They consist of two quartz plates sandwiching two overlapping polymer layers. One of the polymers is doped with a fluorescent benzofurazan. The other contains a photochromic spiropyran. The multilayer assembly is operated with two light sources. One of them is centered at the excitation wavelength of the fluorophore, where neither of the two states of the photochrome absorbs. The other light source is switched between ultraviolet and visible wavelengths to induce the interconversion between the two states of the photochrome. The light emitted by the fluorescent component has to propagate through the photochromic layer before reaching a detector. It can do so efficiently for only one of the two states of the photochrome. It follows that a measurement of the light intensity reaching the detector can read the state of the photochromic switch, which in turn is written and erased with optical stimulations. Thus, our strategy for all-optical processing can be used to store and retrieve binary digits, as well as to implement optical inversion, with the aid of engineered molecule-based components.