A simple N-heterocyclic carbene (NHC) ligand linked to a flexible propylene linker allows the formation of “Cu-Cu”- and “2 Cu”-type geometries inside a molecular framework. The incorporation of two Cu(i) ions in close proximity was observed in the Cu-Cu-type geometry but not in the 2 Cu-type geometry. In this study, the ground-state geometries of solid-state di-copper(i) complexes containing NHC ligands with ethyl substituents were modulated by external stimuli. A crystal with the 2 Cu-type geometry was obtained by the mechanical grinding and heating of a crystal with the Cu-Cu-type geometry, as confirmed by the disappearance of the absorption peak attributed to cuprophilic interaction in the diffuse reflection spectrum. The mechanical grinding of both crystals afforded composite states comprising small crystallites of the corresponding crystalline phases and an amorphous domain. This structural transition was accompanied by tribochromism and chronochromism. The results suggest that these di-copper(i) complexes show promise for the development of stimuli-responsive photoluminescent Cu(i) complexes.
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