A donor-acceptor-donor (D-A-D) type naphthalene-diimide (NDI-H) chromophore exhibits highly cooperative J-aggregation leading to nanotubular self-assembly and gelation in n-decane, as demonstrated by UV/Vis, FT-IR, photoluminescence and microscopy studies. Analysis of temperature-dependent UV/Vis spectra using the nucleation-elongation model and FT-IR data reveals the molecular origin of the cooperative nature of the self-assembly. The supramolecular polymerization is initiated by H-bonding up to a degree of polymerization ∼20-25, which in a subsequent elongation step promotes J-aggregation in orthogonal direction leading to possibly a sheet-like structure that eventually produces nanotubes. Time-resolved fluorescence and absorption measurements demonstrate that such a tubular assembly enables very effective delocalization of excited states resulting in a remarkably prolonged excited state lifetime.
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