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Fluorescent Nanoassemblies in Water Exhibiting Tunable LCST Behavior and Responsive Light Harvesting Ability

An amphiphilic monomer, CSO, was synthesized which contains a hydrophobic cyanostilbene core flanked by two hydrophilic oligo(ethylene glycol) tails. The CSO molecule can self-assemble into nanoaggregates in water with blue fluorescence and LCST behavior. These nanoassemblies also exhibit thermo-responsive fluorescence and were further used to construct a responsive light harvesting system.


Responsive fluorescent nanomaterials have been received considerable attention in recent years. In this work, a bola-type amphiphilic molecule, CSO, was synthesized which contains a hydrophobic cyanostilbene core and hydrophilic oligo(ethylene glycol) (OEG) coils at both sides. The cyanostilbene group is aggregation-induced emission (AIE) active, while the OEG coils are thermo-responsive. As a result, the CSO molecules can self-assemble into blue-fluorescent nanoassemblies with lower critical solution temperature (LCST) behavior in aqueous media. It is noteworthy that the LCST behavior can be reversibly regulated with changes in concentration and the introduction of K+. Intriguingly, fluorescence of CSO assembly shows a blue-shift upon heating. Finally, by employing CSO as a light capturing antenna and energy donor, an artificial light harvesting system with tunable emission and thermo-responsive characteristics was fabricated. This study not only demonstrates an integrated approach to create responsive fluorescent nanomaterials, but also shows great potential for producing luminescent materials and mimicking photosynthesis in nature.

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