A set of terfluorenes and terfluorene-like molecules with different pendant substitutions or side groups were designed and synthesized, their photophysical properties and the excited-state geometries were studied. Dual fluorescence emissions were observed in compounds with rigid pendant groups bearing electron-donating N atoms. According to our earlier studies, in this set of terfluorenes, the blue emission is from the local π–π* transition, while the long-wavelength emission is attributed to a spiroconjugation-like through-space charge-transfer process. Herein, we probe further into how the molecular structures (referring to the side groups, the type of linkage between central fluorene and the 2,2′-azanediyldiethanol units, and—most importantly—the amount of pendant groups), as well as the excited-state geometries, affect the charge-transfer process of these terfluorenes or terfluorene-like compounds. 9-(9,9,9′′,9′′-tetrahexyl-9H,9′H,9′′H-[2,2′:7′,2′′-terfluoren]-9′-yl)-1,2,3,5,6,7-hexahydropyrido[3,2,1-ij]quinolone (TFPJH), with only one julolidine pendant group, was particularly synthesized, which exhibits complete “perpendicular” conformation between julolidine and the central fluorene unit in the excited state, thus typical spiroconjugation could be achieved. Notably, its photophysical behaviors resemble those of TFPJ with two pendant julolidines. This study proves that spiroconjugation does happen in these terfluorene derivatives, although their structures are not in line with the typical orthogonal π fragments. The spiroconjugation charge-transfer emission closely relates to the electron-donating N atoms on the pendant groups, and to the rigid connection between the central fluorene and the N atoms, whereas the amount of pendant groups and the nature of the side chromophores have little effect. These findings may shed light on the understanding of the through-space charge-transfer properties and the emission color tuning of fluorene derivatives.
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