Delayed Fluorescence, Room Temperature Phosphorescence, and Mechanofluorochromic Naphthalimides: Differential Imaging of Normoxia and Hypoxia Live Cancer Cells

J Phys Chem B. 2020 Jul 2;124(26):5393-5406. doi: 10.1021/acs.jpcb.0c04115. Epub 2020 Jun 18.


We study the effect of molecular conformation on the electronic coupling between the donor amines and acceptor 1,8-naphthalimide (NPI) in a series of D-A systems 1-4 (A = NPI; D = phenothiazine, phenoxazine, carbazole, diphenylamine, respectively, for 1, 2, 3, and 4). Weakly coupled systems show dual emission in the solution state, while strongly coupled systems show single emission bands. The energy of transitions and photoluminescence (PL) quantum yield are sensitive to the molecular conformation and donor strength. These compounds show delayed emission in the solutions and aggregated state and phosphorescence in the solid state. Compounds 3 and 4 with weak donors exhibit intermolecular slipped π···π interactions in the solid state and consequently exhibit dual (intra- and inter-) phosphorescence at low temperature. Steady state and time-resolved PL studies at variable temperature together with computational and crystal structure analysis were used to rationalize the optical properties of these compounds. The delayed emission of these compounds is sensitive to molecular oxygen; accordingly, these molecules are utilized for differential imaging of normoxia and hypoxia cancer cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Fluorescence
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia
  • Luminescence
  • Naphthalimides*
  • Neoplasms*
  • Temperature


  • Naphthalimides