How Water in Aliphatic Solvents Directs the Interference of Chemical Reactivity in a Supramolecular System

Mathijs F J Mabesoone, Gijs M ter Huurne, Anja R A Palmans, E W Meijer (Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Water is typically considered to be insoluble in alkanes. Recently, however, monomerically dissolved water in alkanes has been shown to dramatically impact the structure of hydrogen-bonded supramolecular polymers. Here, we report that water in methylcyclohexane (MCH) also determines the outcome of combining a Michael reaction with a porphyrin-based supramolecular system. In dry conditions, the components of the reaction do not affect or destabilize the supramolecular polymer, whereas in ambient or wet conditions the polymers are rapidly destabilized. Although spectroscopic investigations show no effect of water on the molecular structure of the supramolecular polymer, light scattering and atomic force microscopy experiments show that water increases the flexibility of the supramolecular polymer and decreases the polymer length. Through a series of titrations, we show that a cooperative interaction, involving the coordination of the amine catalyst to the porphyrin and complexation of the substrates to the flexible polymers invokes the depolymerization of the aggregates. Water crucially stabilizes these cooperative interactions to cause complete depolymerization in humid conditions. Additionally, we show that the humidity-controlled interference in the polymer stability occurs with various substrates, indicating that water may play a ubiquitous role in supramolecular polymerizations in oils. By controlling the amount of water, the influence of a covalent chemical process on noncovalent aggregates can be mediated, which holds great potential to forge a connection between chemical reactivity and supramolecular material structure. Moreover, our findings highlight that understanding cooperative interactions in multicomponent noncovalent systems is crucial to design complex molecular systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12400-12408
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number28
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2020


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