Activating efficient phosphorescence from purely organic materials by crystal design

Nat Chem. 2011 Mar;3(3):205-10. doi: 10.1038/nchem.984. Epub 2011 Feb 13.


Phosphorescence is among the many functional features that, in practice, divide pure organic compounds from organometallics and inorganics. Considered to be practically non-phosphorescent, purely organic compounds (metal-free) are very rarely explored as emitters in phosphor applications, despite the emerging demand in this field. To defy this paradigm, we describe novel design principles to create purely organic materials demonstrating phosphorescence that can be turned on by incorporating halogen bonding into their crystals. By designing chromophores to contain triplet-producing aromatic aldehydes and triplet-promoting bromine, crystal-state halogen bonding can be made to direct the heavy atom effect to produce surprisingly efficient solid-state phosphorescence. When this chromophore is diluted into the crystal of a bi-halogenated, non-carbonyl analogue, ambient phosphorescent quantum yields reach 55%. Here, using this design, a series of pure organic phosphors are colour-tuned to emit blue, green, yellow and orange. From this initial discovery, a directed heavy atom design principle is demonstrated that will allow for the development of bright and practical purely organic phosphors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Crystallization
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry*
  • Halogens / chemistry
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Organic Chemicals / chemistry*
  • Organometallic Compounds / chemistry
  • Phosphorus / chemistry*
  • Quantum Theory


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Halogens
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Phosphorus

Associated data

  • PubChem-Substance/104169935
  • PubChem-Substance/104169936
  • PubChem-Substance/104169937
  • PubChem-Substance/104169938
  • PubChem-Substance/104169939
  • PubChem-Substance/104169940
  • PubChem-Substance/104169941
  • PubChem-Substance/104169942