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Long-range energy transport in single supramolecular nanofibres at room temperature


Efficient transport of excitation energy over long distances is a key process in light-harvesting systems, as well as in molecular electronics1,2,3. However, in synthetic disordered organic materials, the exciton diffusion length is typically only around 10 nanometres (refs 4, 5), or about 50 nanometres in exceptional cases6,7, a distance that is largely determined by the probability laws of incoherent exciton hopping. Only for highly ordered organic systems has the transport of excitation energy over macroscopic distances been reported—for example, for triplet excitons in anthracene single crystals at room temperature8, as well as along single polydiacetylene chains embedded in their monomer crystalline matrix at cryogenic temperatures (at 10 kelvin, or −263 degrees Celsius)9. For supramolecular nanostructures, uniaxial long-range transport has not been demonstrated at room temperature. Here we show that individual self-assembled nanofibres with molecular-scale diameter efficiently transport singlet excitons at ambient conditions over more than four micrometres, a distance that is limited only by the fibre length. Our data suggest that this remarkable long-range transport is predominantly coherent. Such coherent long-range transport is achieved by one-dimensional self-assembly of supramolecular building blocks, based on carbonyl-bridged triarylamines10, into well defined H-type aggregates (in which individual monomers are aligned cofacially) with substantial electronic interactions. These findings may facilitate the development of organic nanophotonic devices and quantum information technology.

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Figure 1: Self-assembly of compound 1.
Figure 2: Characterization of self-assembled nanofibres.
Figure 3: Long-range energy transport along single supramolecular nanofibres.


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We acknowledge financial support from the Bavarian State Ministry of Science, Research, and the Arts for the Collaborative Research Network ‘Solar Technologies go Hybrid’, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) within projects GRK1640 (A.T.H., A.I., B.W., J.K., H.-W.S., R.H.) HI1508/2 (R.H.), and SFB953 ‘Synthetic Carbon Allotropes’ (M.K., N.H.), and the Cluster of Excellence ‘Engineering of Advanced Materials’ (EAM) at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg (M.K., N.H.). A.T.H. was funded by the ‘Macromolecular Science’ elite study program at the University of Bayreuth and an ‘Elite Netzwerk Bayern’ fellowship. We thank A. Schedl, M. Hund and M. Drechsler for their support with AFM and TEM.

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A.T.H., K.K. and H.-W.S. designed and prepared compounds 1 and 2, and investigated their self-assembly. M.K. and N.H. synthesized the functionalized CBT core as a building block for the synthesis of compounds 1 and 2. R.H., A.I., B.W. and J.K. designed and performed optical experiments on single nanofibres. All authors contributed to discussion of the data and writing of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Hans-Werner Schmidt or Richard Hildner.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Haedler, A., Kreger, K., Issac, A. et al. Long-range energy transport in single supramolecular nanofibres at room temperature. Nature 523, 196–199 (2015).

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