The Nature of Excimer Formation in Crystalline Pyrene Nanoparticles

Pyrene is an exemplary conjugated organic chromophore with a strong propensity for self-association through an excited-state process known as excimer formation. Pyrene “excimers” and molecular “excimers” more generally are strongly avoided in some applications, such as in light harvesting, yet have found widespread use in others, such as in sensing and structure determination. Despite this disparate view and despite their widespread use, a fundamental understanding of the structure and dynamics of these collective excitations remains outstanding. In this work, we shed key insights into the nature of excimer formation in crystalline pyrene. We developed a flash precipitation procedure incorporating a polymer additive that enabled us to prepare aqueous suspensions of crystalline pyrene nanoparticles. We provide evidence that the molecular-level packing in the nanoparticles is equivalent to the equilibrium packing of the single crystal and show that excimer formation is the primary excited-state decay pathway. We find that excimer formation in the crystalline pyrene nanoparticles occurs in two stages on a picosecond time scale and suggest that intermolecular structural dynamics are largely responsible for the observed two-stage dynamics. We discuss an exciton theory description of molecular “excimers” and provide insights into their mechanism of formation, which we argue is best viewed simply as the relaxation of a singlet exciton into an excimer geometry.