Four novel borondipyrromethene (BDP) and -diindomethene (BDI) dyes with one or two (dimethylamino)styryl extensions at the chromophore were synthesized and spectroscopically investigated. An X-ray crystal structure shows that the extended auxochrome is virtually planar. All dyes thus display intense red/near infrared (NIR) absorption and emission. The (dimethylamino)styryl group induces a charge-transfer character that entails bright solvatochromic fluorescence, which is only quenched with increasing solvent polarity according to the energy-gap law. The dye with an additional dimethylanilino group at the meso position of BDP shows a remarkable switching of lipophilicity by protonation. Two dyes with an 8-hydroxyquinoline ligand at the meso position display quenched emission in the presence of Hg2+ or Al3+ owing to electron transfer from the excited BDP to the complexed receptor. The BDI dye presents a pH indicator with bright fluorescence and extremely low fluorescence anisotropy.
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