Unexpectedly bright photoluminescence emission can be observed in materials incorporating inorganic carbon when their size is reduced from macro–micro to nano. At present, there is no consensus in its understanding, and many suggested explanations are not consistent with the broad range of experimental data. In this Review, I discuss the possible role of collective excitations (excitons) generated by resonance electronic interactions among the chromophore elements within these nanoparticles. The Förster-type resonance energy transfer (FRET) mechanism of energy migration within nanoparticles operates when the composing fluorophores are the localized electronic systems interacting at a distance. Meanwhile, the resonance interactions among closely located fluorophores may lead to delocalization of the excited states over many molecules resulting in Frenkel excitons. The H-aggregate-type quantum coherence originating from strong coupling among the transition dipoles of adjacent chromophores in a co-facial stacking arrangement and exciton transport to emissive traps are the basis of the presented model. It can explain most of the hitherto known experimental observations and must stimulate the progress towards their versatile applications.
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