The poly(p-phenylene vinylene) derivative MEH-PPV is known to exist as two morphologically distinct species, referred to as red phase and blue phase. We show here that the transition from the blue phase to the red phase is a critical phenomenon that can be quantitatively described as a second order phase transition with a critical temperature T(c) of 204 K. The criticality is associated with the trade-off between the gain in the electronic stabilization energy when the π-system of a planarized chain can delocalize and the concomitant loss of entropy. We studied this transition by measuring the absorption and fluorescence in methyltetrahydrofuran (MeTHF) in two different concentrations as a function of temperature. The spectra were analyzed based upon the Kuhn exciton model to extract effective conjugation lengths. At room temperature, the chains have effective conjugation lengths of about five repeat units in the ground state (the blue phase), consistent with a disordered defect cylinder conformation. Upon cooling below the critical temperature T(c), the red phase with increased effective conjugation lengths of about 10 repeat units forms, implying a more extended and better ordered conformation. Whereas aggregation is required for the creation of the red phase, its electronic states have a predominant intrachain character.
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