Mechanochromic Luminescence Based on Crystal-to-Crystal Transformation Mediated by a Transient Amorphous
Photoluminescent materials that exhibit tunable emission properties when subjected to mechanical stimuli have numerous potential applications. Although many organic/inorganic and organometallic compounds display this property, called mechanochromic luminescence, most of these materials undergo a crystalline-to-amorphous (C → A) phase transition; examples of crystalline-to-crystalline (C1 → C2) transformation are rare. Single-crystal X-ray diffraction may allow direct analysis of the molecular packing of mechanochromic luminescence materials before and after C1 → C2 transformation, which may help to understand the underlying mechanism of this transformation. Reported herein is a mechanochromic luminescence material that displays an unprecedented type of C1 → C2 transformation mediated by a transient amorphous phase (C1 → [A] → C2). This mechanochromic luminescence material was developed by introducing soft triethylene glycol side chains in a crystalline gold(I) complex that exhibits mechanochromic luminescence based on a C → A phase transition. When this new gold(I) complex bearing triethylene glycol chains was subjected to a mechanical or thermal stimulus, dynamic phase changes were observed with irreversible luminescence color changes from blue to yellow to green in both the cases. The crystallinity of the mechanically generated C2 phase was lower than that of the thermally generated C2 phase. This is because the mechanically induced C1 → [A] → C2 process was finished within seconds, whereas the thermal C1 → [A] → C2 process occurred over a few minutes. To control the C1 → [A] → C2 transformation, we doped the complex with an inactive soft component. This successfully made the transformation reversible (from green to blue) upon thermal annealing of the mechanically obtained C2 phase. This approach allowed the development of an imaging process involving invisible information storage even under UV illumination.