Relief of excited-state antiaromaticity enables the smallest red emitter

Heechan Kim, Woojin Park, Younghun Kim, Michael Filatov, Cheol Ho Choi, Dongwhan Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is commonly accepted that a large π-conjugated system is necessary to realize low-energy electronic transitions. Contrary to this prevailing notion, we present a new class of light-emitters utilizing a simple benzene core. Among different isomeric forms of diacetylphenylenediamine (DAPA), o- and p-DAPA are fluorescent, whereas m-DAPA is not. Remarkably, p-DAPA is the lightest (FW = 192) molecule displaying red emission. A systematic modification of the DAPA system allows the construction of a library of emitters covering the entire visible color spectrum. Theoretical analysis shows that their large Stokes shifts originate from the relief of excited-state antiaromaticity, rather than the typically assumed intramolecular charge transfer or proton transfer. A delicate interplay of the excited-state antiaromaticity and hydrogen bonding defines the photophysics of this new class of single benzene fluorophores. The formulated molecular design rules suggest that an extended π-conjugation is no longer a prerequisite for a long-wavelength light emission.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5409
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


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