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Increasing Molecular Planarity through Donor/Side‐Chain Engineering for Improved NIR‐IIa Fluorescence Imaging and NIR‐II Photothermal Therapy under 1064 nm

We propose a simple strategy based on molecular planarity to design a high-performance donor-acceptor-donor-type conjugated small molecule with both intense NIR-II absorption and robust energy output. The resulting probe was used for 1064 nm laser-triggered NIR-II (1000–1700 nm) fluorescence/photoacoustic imaging and dual-mode imaging-guided NIR-II photothermal therapy in vivo.


Developing conjugated small molecules (CSM) with intense NIR-II (1000–1700 nm) absorption for phototheranostic is highly desirable but remains a tremendous challenge due to a lack of reliable design guidelines. This study reports a high-performance NIR-II CSM for phototheranostic by tailoring molecular planarity. A series of CSM show bathochromic absorption extended to the NIR-II region upon the increasing thiophene number, but an excessive number of thiophene results in decreased NIR-IIa (1300–1400 nm) brightness and photothermal effects. Further introduction of terminal nonconjugated alkyl chain can enhance NIR-II absorption coefficient, NIR-IIa brightness, and photothermal effects. Mechanism studies ascribe this overall enhancement to molecular planarity stemming from the collective contribution of donor/side-chain engineering. This finding directs the design of NIR-II CSM by rational manipulating molecular planarity to perform 1064 nm mediated phototheranostic at high efficiency.

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