Tunable solid-state fluorescent materials for supramolecular encryption

Xisen Hou, Chenfeng Ke, Carson J. Bruns, Paul R. McGonigal, Roger B. Pettman, J. Fraser Stoddart*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tunable solid-state fluorescent materials are ideal for applications in security printing technologies. A document possesses a high level of security if its encrypted information can be authenticated without being decoded, while also being resistant to counterfeiting. Herein, we describe a heterorotaxane with tunable solid-state fluorescent emissions enabled through reversible manipulation of its aggregation by supramolecular encapsulation. The dynamic nature of this fluorescent material is based on a complex set of equilibria, whose fluorescence output depends non-linearly on the chemical inputs and the composition of the paper. By applying this system in fluorescent security inks, the information encoded in polychromic images can be protected in such a way that it is close to impossible to reverse engineer, as well as being easy to verify. This system constitutes a unique application of responsive complex equilibria in the form of a cryptographic algorithm that protects valuable information printed using tunable solid-state fluorescent materials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6884
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors dedicate this manuscript to Professor Yoshihisa Inoue on the occasion of his retirement. We thank Professor Yoshihisa Inoue from Osaka University and Professor Frank Würthner from Universität Würzburg for their useful suggestions. We acknowledge financial support from Northwestern University (NU). X.H. gratefully acknowledges support from the Ryan Fellowship and the Northwestern University International Institute of Nanotechnology.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.

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