Organic semiconductors are materials having the benefits of semiconductors together with those of organic molecules. That means, on one hand, these are compounds able to absorb and emit light, as well as conduct electricity to a certain extent, which is enough for the functionality of solid state devices. On the other hand, a remarkable characteristic is that the excitations are typically localized on individual molecules, such that the exchange interactions lead to energetically distinct singlet and triplet states.
According to the spectroscopic selection rules in quantum mechanics, only transitions from the singlet excited state are allowed, deactivating radiatively while generating fluorescence emission in the process, whereas transitions from the triplet excited state are not allowed, because its decay involves a spin flip, and therefore, it is theoretically forbidden by electric dipole transitions. Nevertheless, there is a small probability of these forbidden transitions to occur at a low rate, resulting in a slow radiative deactivation known as phosphorescence emission.
In this context, the property of an organic molecule able to emit light from both their singlet and triplet excited states is called biluminescence. Although this dual state emission, particularly at room temperature, is difficult to achieve by purely organic molecules, it becomes possible if competitive thermal decay is suppressed effectively, allowing emission from the triplet states (i.e. phosphorescence) in addition to the conventional fluorescence.
Here, we have identified biluminescence in simple host:guest systems in which a biluminophore (i.e. organic molecule with biluminescence property) is embedded in an optimum rigid matrix, for example, a combination of PMMA [poly(methyl methacrylate)] as host and NPB [N,N’-di(naphtha-1-yl)-N,N’-diphenyl-benzidine] as biluminophore [Reineke and Baldo, Sci. Rep.]. Such system is unique not only because of the dual state emission, but also the large exciton dynamic range extended up to nine orders of magnitude between nanosecond-lifetime fluorescence and millisecond-lifetime phosphorescence.
In this presentation, we will report on the oxygen sensing characteristics of this luminescent system compared to a benchmarked single state optical sensor. Such properties can be evaluated because of the sensitivity of the triplet state to oxygen and therefore, we investigate the dependence of the persistent phosphorescence on the oxygen content. Furthermore, we will address our efforts towards the potential integration of novel optical biluminescent sensing into organic electronics.