Light-Triggered Disassembly of Molecular Motor-based Supramolecular Polymers Revealed by High Speed-AFM

Chris van Ewijk, Fan Xu, Sourav Maity, Jinyu Sheng, Marc C A Stuart, Ben L Feringa*, Wouter H Roos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Downloads (Pure)


Photoresponsive supramolecular polymers have a major potential for applications in responsive materials that are externally triggered by light with spatio-temporal control of their polymerisation state. While changes in macroscopic properties revealed the adaptive nature of these materials, it remains challenging to capture the dynamic depolymerisation process at the molecular level, which requires fast observation techniques combined with in situ irradiation. By implementing in situ UV illumination into a High-Speed Atomic Force Microscope (HS-AFM) setup, we have been able to capture the disassembly of a light-driven molecular motor-based supramolecular polymer. The real-time visualisation of the light-triggered disassembly process not only reveals cooperative depolymerisation, it also shows that this process continues after illumination is halted. Combining the data with cryo-electron microscopy and spectroscopy approaches, we obtain a molecular-level description of the motor-based polymer dynamics reminiscent of actin chain-end depolymerisation. Our detailed understanding of supramolecular depolymerisation will drive the development of future responsive polymer systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere202319387
Number of pages7
JournalAngewandte Chemie (International ed. in English)
Issue number14
Early online date4-Mar-2024
Publication statusPublished - 2-Apr-2024


  • Atomic Force Microscopy
  • Depolymerization
  • Molecular motors
  • Scanning Probe Microscopy
  • Supramolecular Chemistry

Cite this