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Three imidazoles with different numbers of fused aromatic rings have been prepared by the respective introduction of triphenylamine and 4-cyanophenyl at the N 1 and C 2 positions in the imidazole ring. Each imidazole effectively exhibits positive solvatochromism, and that of benzo[ ]imidazole is the most significant. Although these imidazole crystals have centrosymmetric space groups, they are all ML-active. It was verified by DFT calculations based on X-ray crystallography that some moleculardoi:10.1039/d0ra02737e fatcat:rwcb73mwwfgujowauytkpvprne