Controlling the Growth and Shape of Chiral Supramolecular Polymers in Water

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A challenging target in the noncovalent synthesis of nanostructured functional materials is the formation of uniform features that exhibit well-defined properties, e.g., precise control over the aggregate shape, size, and stability. In particular, for aqueous-based one-dimensional supramolecular polymers, this is a daunting task. Here we disclose a strategy based on self-assembling discotic amphiphiles that leads to the control over stack length and shape of ordered, chiral columnar aggregates. By balancing out attractive noncovalent forces within the hydrophobic core of the polymerizing building blocks with electrostatic repulsive interactions on the hydrophilic rim we managed to switch from elongated, rod-like assemblies to small and discrete objects. Intriguingly this rod-to-sphere transition is expressed in a loss of cooperativity in the temperature-dependent self-assembly mechanism. The aggregates were characterized using circular dichroism, UV and 1H-NMR spectroscopy, small angle X-ray scattering, and cryotransmission electron microscopy. In analogy to many systems found in biology, mechanistic details of the self-assembly pathways emphasize the importance of cooperativity as a key feature that dictates the physical properties of the produced supramolecular polymers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17888-17893
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS)
Issue number42
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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