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Cyano-Isocyanide Iridium(III) Complexes with Pure Blue Phosphorescence

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journal contribution
posted on 12.04.2021, 20:30 by Louise M. Cañada, Johanna Kölling, Zhili Wen, Judy I-Chia Wu, Thomas S. Teets
In this paper, we report a series of six neutral, blue-phosphorescent cyclometalated iridium complexes of the type Ir­(C^Y)2(CNAr)­(CN). The cyclometalating ligands in these compounds (C^Y) are either aryl-substituted 1,2,4-triazole or NHC ligands, known to produce complexes with blue phosphorescence. These cyclometalating ligands are paired with π-acidic, strongly σ-donating cyano and aryl isocyanide (CNAr) ancillary ligands, the hypothesis being that these ancillary ligands would destabilize the higher-lying ligand-field (dd) excited states, allowing efficient blue photoluminescence. The compounds are prepared by substituting the cyanide ancillary ligand onto a chloride precursor and are characterized by NMR, mass spectrometry, infrared spectroscopy, and, for five of the compounds, by X-ray crystallography. Cyclic voltammetry establishes that these compounds have large HOMO–LUMO gaps. The mixed cyano-isocyanide compounds are weakly luminescent in solution, but they phosphoresce with moderate to good efficiency when doped into poly­(methyl methacrylate) films, with Commission Internationale de L’Eclairage coordinates that indicate deep blue emission for five of the six compounds. The photophysical studies show that the photoluminescence quantum yields are greatly enhanced in the cyano complexes relative to the chloride precursors, affirming the benefit of strong-field ancillary ligands in the design of blue-phosphorescent complexes. Density functional theory calculations confirm that this enhancement arises from a significant destabilization of the higher-energy ligand-field states in the cyanide complexes relative to the chloride precursors.