Development of luminescent materials has led to knowledge creation and high-tech innovation. In the area of research, however, there is thorny hurdle named aggregation-caused quenching (ACQ). This textbook knowledgehas significantly limited the scope of practical applications of conventional luminescent materials.

The research team has broken the ACQ shackle by utilizing aggregation-induced emission (AIE), a new photophysical process invented by them. They have conducted systematic and creative study on structural design, mechanism understanding and high-tech applications of AIE materials. Their accomplishments include:

(1) The development of a new AIE system based on tetraphenylethene (TPE). The discovery of TPE system has led to a great surge in AIE research, making TPE a star luminogen with Chinese flavor.The team has also discovered crystallization-induced phosphorescence from pure organicsat room temperature andclusteroluminescence from non-aromatic and non-conjugated polymers.

(2) The better understanding of working mechanismsof AIE processes and the facile design strategy for transforming ACQfluorophores to useful AIE luminogens.

(3) The successful exploration of technological applications of AIE luminogens in optoelectronic devices, chemical sensors, bioimaging, theranostics, etc.,realizing novel functions that are difficult, if not impossible, to achieve by ACQ fluorophores.

Researchers at >1100 institutes in>60 countries/regionshave been working in the area of AIE research, resulting in exponential increase in numbers of published papers and citations. Special themed issues on AIE in prestigious journals have been published and a seriesof international AIE conferences have been held. AIEhas become a topic to be taught in the undergraduate experimental courses.AIE research was ranked #2 as a Key HotResearch Front in the fields of chemistry and materials science in 2015 by National Science Library of Chinese Academy ofSciences and Thomson Reuters. AIE materials have been hailed by a Nature News FeatureArticle as a key nanomaterial for the forthcoming “nanolight revolution”. AIE has developed into a new hotresearch area that is spearheaded by Chinese scientists.