High performance mechano-optoelectronic molecular switch

Nat Commun. 2023 Sep 13;14(1):5639. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-41433-0.


Highly-efficient molecular photoswitching occurs ex-situ but not to-date inside electronic devices due to quenching of excited states by background interactions. Here we achieve fully reversible in-situ mechano-optoelectronic switching in self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) of tetraphenylethylene molecules by bending their supporting electrodes to maximize aggregation-induced emission (AIE). We obtain stable, reversible switching across >1600 on/off cycles with large on/off ratio of (3.8 ± 0.1) × 103 and 140 ± 10 ms switching time which is 10-100× faster than other approaches. Multimodal characterization shows mechanically-controlled emission with UV-light enhancing the Coulomb interaction between the electrons and holes resulting in giant enhancement of molecular conductance. The best mechano-optoelectronic switching occurs in the most concave architecture that reduces ambient single-molecule conformational entropy creating artificially-tightened supramolecular assemblies. The performance can be further improved to achieve ultra-high switching ratio on the order of 105 using tetraphenylethylene derivatives with more AIE-active sites. Our results promise new applications from optimized interplay between mechanical force and optics in soft electronics.