Ring-in-ring(s) complexes exhibiting tunable multicolor photoluminescence

Huang Wu, Yu Wang, Leighton O. Jones, Wenqi Liu, Bo Song, Yunpeng Cui, Kang Cai, Long Zhang, Dengke Shen, Xiao Yang Chen, Yang Jiao, Charlotte L. Stern, Xiaopeng Li, George C. Schatz, J. Fraser Stoddart*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


One ring threaded by two other rings to form a non-intertwined ternary ring-in-rings motif is a challenging task in noncovalent synthesis. Constructing multicolor photoluminescence systems with tunable properties is also a fundamental research goal, which can lead to applications in multidimensional biological imaging, visual displays, and encryption materials. Herein, we describe the design and synthesis of binary and ternary ring-in-ring(s) complexes, based on an extended tetracationic cyclophane and cucurbit[8]uril. The formation of these complexes is accompanied by tunable multicolor fluorescence outputs. On mixing equimolar amounts of the cyclophane and cucurbit[8]uril, a 1:1 ring-in-ring complex is formed as a result of hydrophobic interactions associated with a favorable change in entropy. With the addition of another equivalent of cucurbit[8]uril, a 1:2 ring-in-rings complex is formed, facilitated by additional ion−dipole interactions involving the pyridinium units in the cyclophane and the carbonyl groups in cucurbit[8]uril. Because of the narrowing in the energy gaps of the cyclophane within the rigid hydrophobic cavities of cucurbit[8]urils, the binary and ternary ring-in-ring(s) complexes emit green and bright yellow fluorescence, respectively. A series of color-tunable emissions, such as sky blue, cyan, green, and yellow with increased fluorescence lifetimes, can be achieved by simply adding cucurbit[8]uril to an aqueous solution of the cyclophane. Notably, the smaller cyclobis(paraquat-p-phenylene), which contains the same p-xylylene linkers as the extended tetracationic cyclophane, does not form ring-in-ring(s) complexes with cucurbit[8]uril. The encapsulation of this extended tetracationic cyclophane by both one and two cucurbit[8]urils provides an incentive to design and synthesize more advanced supramolecular systems, as well as opening up a feasible approach toward achieving tunable multicolor photoluminescence with single chromophores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16849-16860
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number39
StatePublished - Sep 30 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Ring-in-ring(s) complexes exhibiting tunable multicolor photoluminescence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this