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Mechanically Induced Conformation Change, Fluorescence Modulation, and Mechanically Assisted Photodegradation in Single Nanoparticles of the Conjugated Polymer Poly(9,9-dioctylfluorene)

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journal contribution
posted on 06.04.2020, 21:03 authored by Tomonori Nakamura, Martin Vacha
We explored the possibility of nanoscale mechanical manipulation and control of photophysical properties of conjugated polymer nanoparticles. We carried out a simultaneous atomic force microscopy (AFM) and fluorescence microspectroscopy study on single nanoparticles of the conjugated polymer poly­(9,9-dioctylfluorene). The nanoparticles are prepared by a reprecipitation method and have an average height of 27 nm, and their emission is dominated by the well-ordered β-phase conformation. Fluorescence polarization anisotropy and numerical simulations show that each particle contains at least three partly oriented straight β-phase segments surrounded by amorphous glass-phase polyfluorene chains. In the simultaneous experiments, an AFM tip was used to apply external force on a single nanoparticle, and a confocal fluorescence microscope was used to monitor in real time the resulting changes in the fluorescence intensity and spectra. In a nitrogen atmosphere, weak to moderate force of up to 1 μN acts mainly on the glass-phase polyfluorene chains by forming quenchers that cause an efficient and reversible fluorescence decrease, whereas the β-phase segments stay unaffected. A higher force of 5 μN, on the contrary, breaks the β-phase segments into multiple glass-phase segments, causing a net increase in fluorescence intensity. Under ambient air conditions, even a moderate force of 1 μN strongly accelerates the degradation of the nanoparticle by preferably photobleaching the β-phase and partially transforming it into the glass phase. These results will contribute to the fundamental knowledge on the relationship between photophysical and structural properties of polyfluorene nanostructures, and will also provide important feedback for potential applications of such nanostructures in flexible optoelectronic devices.