Use of organic molecules as lasing media has much potential to develop next-generation optical devices as soft-matter photonics with wideband tunability and large coherence area. Although mirrorless lasing was theoretically predicted and practically demonstrated in helical cholesteric liquid crystalline (LC) phases of organic compounds, recent studies on optical confinement have been much focused into hard-crystalline phases of the molecules. Aggregation-induced emission (AIE) and enhancement (AIEE) provides one of the optimal molecular systems for light amplification in condensed phases, and herein AIEE activity and excited-state intramolecular proton transfer (ESIPT) are successfully coupled in a room temperature (RT) nematic LC. Suppressing the effect of concentration quenching/self-absorption and attaining four-level system for population inversion by the combination of AIEE and ESIPT in LC phases, lead to the amplified spontaneous emission (ASE) from a newly designed molecule: C5Ph-HBT dispersed in RT LC matrix with the pumping energy threshold of 20 mJ cm–2. Moreover, the nematic LC allows the orientation of the molecular dipoles in response to external electric fields. Hence, the fluorescence as well as the ASE switching is attained at RT, demonstrating the potential of these composite materials as “switchable” ASE media for technological progress.
- aggregation-induced emission
- amplified spontaneous emission
- excited-state intramolecular proton transfer
- liquid crystals
- switchable lasing