Reticular Ratchets for Directing Electrochemiluminescence

J Am Chem Soc. 2024 Jun 5. doi: 10.1021/jacs.4c03981. Online ahead of print.


Electrochemiluminescence (ECL) involves charge transfer between electrochemical redox intermediates to produce an excited state for light emission. Ensuring precise control of charge transfer is essential for decoding ECL fundamentals, yet guidelines on how to achieve this for conventional emitters remain unexplored. Molecular ratchets offer a potential solution, as they enable the directional transfer of energy or chemicals while impeding the reverse movement. Herein, we designed 10 pairs of imine-based covalent organic frameworks as reticular ratchets to delicately manipulate the intrareticular charge transfer for directing ECL transduction from electric and chemical energies. Aligning the donor and acceptor (D-A) directions with the imine dipole effectively facilitates charge migration, whereas reversing the D-A direction impedes it. Notably, the ratchet effect of charge transfer directionality intensified with increasing D-A contrast, resulting in a remarkable 680-fold improvement in the ECL efficiency. Furthermore, dipole-controlled exciton binding energy, electron/hole decay kinetics, and femtosecond transient absorption spectra identified the electron transfer tendency from the N-end toward the C-end of reticular ratchets during ECL transduction. An exponential correlation between the ECL efficiency and the dipole difference was discovered. Our work provides a general approach to manipulate charge transfer and design next-generation electrochemical devices.