From Photoinduced Supramolecular Polymerization to Responsive Organogels

Fan Xu, Lukas Pfeifer, Stefano Crespi, Franco King-Chi Leung, Marc C A Stuart, Sander J Wezenberg, Ben L Feringa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
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Controlling supramolecular polymerization by external stimuli holds great potential toward the development of responsive soft materials and manipulating self-assembly at the nanoscale. Photochemical switching offers the prospect of regulating the structure and properties of systems in a noninvasive and reversible manner with spatial and temporal control. In addition, this approach will enhance our understanding of supramolecular polymerization mechanisms; however, the control of molecular assembly by light remains challenging. Here we present photoresponsive stiff-stilbene-based bis-urea monomers whose trans isomers readily form supramolecular polymers in a wide range of organic solvents, enabling fast light-triggered depolymerization-polymerization and reversible gel formation. Due to the stability of the cis isomers and the high photostationary states (PSS) of the cis-trans isomerization, precise control over supramolecular polymerization and in situ gelation could be achieved with short response times. A detailed study on the temperature-dependent and photoinduced supramolecular polymerization in organic solvents revealed a kinetically controlled nucleation-elongation mechanism. By application of a Volta phase plate to enhance the phase-contrast method in cryo-EM, unprecedented for nonaqueous solutions, uniform nanofibers were observed in organic solvents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5990–5997
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number15
Early online date8-Apr-2021
Publication statusPublished - 21-Apr-2021

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