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Keywords:

  • Conjugated polymers;
  • Defect emission;
  • Light-emitting materials;
  • Polyfluorenes;
  • Single-molecule spectroscopy

Abstract

The emission of semiconducting polyfluorenes is often accompanied by an undesired feature in the green spectral region. Whereas a number of previous investigations have argued in favor of a monomolecular origin of the emission species based on ketonic defects, recent experimental results suggested the necessity of excimer formation between individual fluorenone units. We provide a range of new evidence supporting the monomolecular origin of green band emission in polyfluorenes. Most importantly, we succeed in performing single-molecule spectroscopy on fluorenone-containing polyfluorene model compounds. Whereas most fluorenone-containing molecules exhibit both blue backbone and green fluorenone emission independent of fluorenone concentration, it is the relative intensities of the two species which correlate strongly with the fluorenone concentration on the single-molecule level. Furthermore, we consider a novel model compound with a bifacial arrangement of two fluorenone units. This compound does not provide any signatures of enhanced intramolecular excimer formation but does strongly indicate that concentration quenching effects occur once fluorenone units can interact electronically. The ability to detect on-chain defect emission in a single polymer molecule demonstrates that photochemical reactions in conjugated polymers can be monitored by fluorescence spectroscopy down to the level of a few atoms, constituting an unprecedented degree of materials characterization.