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Large reverse saturable absorption under weak continuous incoherent light



In materials showing reverse saturable absorption (RSA), the optical absorbance increases as the power of the light incident on them increases. To date, RSA has only been observed when very intense light sources, such as short-pulse lasers, are used. Here, we show that hydroxyl steroidal matrices embedding properly designed aromatic molecules as acceptors and transition-metal complexes as donors exhibit high RSA on exposure to weak incoherent light at room temperature and in air. Accumulation by photosensitization of long-lived room-temperature triplet excitons in acceptors with a large triplet–triplet absorption coefficient allows a nonlinear increase in absorbance also under low-power irradiation conditions. As a consequence, continuous exposure to weak light significantly decreases the transmittance of thin films fabricated with these compounds. These optical limiting properties may be used to protect eyes and light sensors from exposure to intense radiation generated by incoherent sources and for other light-absorption applications that have not been realized with conventional RSA materials.

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Figure 1: Design of materials showing RSA with weak continuous incoherent light and absorption characteristics of the material.
Figure 2: Schematic illustrations showing the photophysical processes of the materials and RSA with weak incoherent irradiance.
Figure 3: Optical characteristics of donors and acceptors.
Figure 4: RSA and OL properties of the samples.
Figure 5: Saturation of the RSA and the OL characteristics under high irradiance.


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This work was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (B) (22750132), a Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (A) (26708010), a Grant-in-aid from the Funding Program for World-Leading Innovative R&D on Science and Technology (FIRST), a Japan Association for Chemical Innovation grant, a Japan Bioindustry Association grant, a Tokyo Tech Engineering Grant for New Assistant Professors, the Cosmetology Research Foundation, a grant for Basic Science Research Projects from the Sumitomo Foundation, and the Adaptable and Seamless Technology Transfer Program through Target-driven R&D (AS231Z01236B).

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S.H. proposed the concept of a reverse saturable absorber using accumulation of long-lived room-temperature triplet excitons and designed the materials. S.H. measured device characteristics and collected data. K.T. helped with absorption measurements and T.Y. helped with transient absorption measurements. S.H. performed analyses. S.H., C.A. and M.V. wrote the manuscript. All authors discussed the progress of research and reviewed the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Shuzo Hirata or Martin Vacha.

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Hirata, S., Totani, K., Yamashita, T. et al. Large reverse saturable absorption under weak continuous incoherent light. Nature Mater 13, 938–946 (2014).

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