Heavy-atom engineering of thermally activated delayed fluorophores for high-performance X-ray imaging scintillators

by Jian-Xin Wang, Luis Gutiérrez-Arzaluz, Xiaojia Wang, Tengyue He, Yuhai Zhang, Mohamed Eddaoudi, Osman M. Bakr, Omar F. Mohammed
Year: 2022 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41566-022-01092-x


The architectural design and fabrication of low-cost and reliable organic X-ray imaging scintillators with high light yield, ultralow detection limits and excellent imaging resolution is becoming one of the most attractive research directions for chemists, materials scientists, physicists and engineers due to the devices’ promising scientific and applied technological implications. However, the optimal balance among X-ray absorption capability, exciton utilization efficiency and photoluminescence quantum yield of organic scintillation materials is extremely difficult to achieve because of several competitive non-radiative processes, including intersystem crossing and internal conversion. Here we introduced heavy atoms (Cl, Br and I) into thermally activated delayed fluorescence (TADF) chromophores to significantly increase their X-ray absorption cross-section and maintaining their unique TADF properties and high photoluminescence quantum yield. The X-ray imaging screens fabricated using TADF-Br chromophores exhibited highly improved X-ray sensitivity and imaging resolution compared with the TADF-H counterpart. More importantly, the high X-ray imaging resolution of >18.0 line pairs per millimetre achieved from the TADF-Br screen exceeds most reported organic and conventional inorganic scintillators. This study could help revive research on organic X-ray imaging scintillators and pave the way towards exciting applications for radiology and security screening.