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Self‐Calibrating Mechanochromic Fluorescent Polymers Based on Encapsulated Excimer‐Forming Dyes


While mechanochemical transduction principles are omnipresent in nature, mimicking these in artificial materials is challenging. The ability to reliably detect the exposure of man‐made objects to mechanical forces is, however, of great interest for many applications, including structural health monitoring and tamper‐proof packaging. A useful concept to achieve mechanochromic responses in polymers is the integration of microcapsules, which rupture upon deformation and release a payload causing a visually detectable response. Herein, it is reported that this approach can be used to create mechanochromic fluorescent materials that show a direct and ratiometric response to mechanical deformation. This can be achieved by filling poly(urea‐formaldehyde) microcapsules with a solution of a photoluminescent aggregachromic cyano‐substituted oligo(p‐phenylene vinylene) and embedding these particles in poly(dimethylsiloxane). The application of mechanical force by way of impact, incision, or tensile deformation opens the microcapsules and releases the fluorophore in the damaged area. Due to excimer formation, the subsequent aggregation of the dye furnishes a detectable fluorescence color change. With the emission from unopened microcapsules as built‐in reference, the approach affords materials that are self‐calibrating. This new concept appears to be readily applicable to a range of polymer matrices and allows for the straightforward assessment of their structural integrity.

Failure detection in polymeric materials is achieved by incorporating microcapsules filled with solutions of excimer‐forming fluorescent dyes. Deformation of such materials breaks the microcapsules and a readily detectable change of the fluorescence color occurs upon release and aggregation of the dye. The emission of undamaged capsules serves as reference, enabling ratiometric measurements and therewith quantitative assessments of mechanical impact.

Authors:   Céline Calvino, Anirvan Guha, Christoph Weder, Stephen Schrettl
Journal:   Advanced Materials
Year:   2018
Pages:   n/a
DOI:   10.1002/adma.201704603
Publication date:   18-Jan-2018
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