Mass-balance models for scrutinizing supramolecular (co)polymerizations in thermodynamic equilibrium

Huub M.M. ten Eikelder (Corresponding author), Albert J. Markvoort (Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
67 Downloads (Pure)


ConspectusRecent years have witnessed increasing attention on supramolecular polymerization, i.e., the formation of one-dimensional aggregates in which the monomeric units bind together via reversible and usually highly directional non-covalent interactions. Because of the presence of these reversible interactions, such as hydrogen bonding, π-πinteractions, or metal coordination, supramolecular polymers exhibit numerous desirable properties ranging from high thermoresponsiveness to self-healing and great capacity for processability and recycling. These properties relate to intriguing experimentally observed nonlinear effects such as the monomer-dependent presence of a critical temperature for aggregation and a solvent- and temperature-tunable aggregate morphology. For coassemblies this is complemented with monomer-ratio- and monomer-compatibility-dependent internal order as well as majority-rules-type chiral amplification. However, the dynamic nature of the (co)polymers and the intricate interplay of many interactions make these effects difficult to rationalize without theoretical models.This Account presents recent advances in the development and use of equilibrium models for supramolecular copolymerization based on mass balances, mainly developed by our group. The basic idea of these models is that we describe a supramolecular (co)polymerization by a set of independent equilibrium reactions, like monomer associations and dissociations, and that in thermodynamic equilibrium the concentrations of the reactants and products in each reaction are coupled via the equilibrium constant of that reaction. Recursion then allows the concentration of each possible aggregate to be written as a function of the free monomer concentrations. Because a monomer should be present either as a free monomer or in one of the aggregates, a set of n equations can be formed with the n free monomer concentrations as the only unknowns. This set of mass-balance equations can then be solved numerically, yielding the free monomer concentrations, from which the complete system can be reconstituted.By a step-by-step extension of the model for the aggregation of a single monomer type to include the formation of multiple aggregate types and the coassembly of multiple monomer types, we can capture increasingly complex supramolecular (co)polymerizations. In each step we illustrate how the extended model explains in detail another of the experimentally observed nonlinear effects, with the common denominator that small differences in association energies are intricately amplified at the supramolecular level. We finally arrive at our latest and most general approach to modeling (cooperative) supramolecular (co)polymerization, which encompasses all of our earlier models and shows great promise to help rationalize also future systems featuring ever-increasing complexity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3465-3474
Number of pages10
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'Mass-balance models for scrutinizing supramolecular (co)polymerizations in thermodynamic equilibrium'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this