Model-driven optimization of multi-component self-assembly processes

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Here, we report an engineering approach toward multicomponent self-assembly processes by developing a methodology to circumvent spurious, metastable assemblies. The formation of metastable aggregates often hampers self-assembly of molecular building blocks into the desired nanostructures. Strategies are explored to master the pathway complexity and avoid off-pathway aggregates by optimizing the rate of assembly along the correct pathway. We study as a model system the coassembly of two monomers, the R- and S-chiral enantiomers of a p-conjugated oligo(p-phenylene vinylene) derivative. Coassembly kinetics are analyzed by developing a kinetic model, which reveals the initial assembly of metastable structures buffering free monomers and thereby slows the formation of thermodynamically stable assemblies. These metastable assemblies exert greater influence on the thermodynamically favored self-assembly pathway if the ratio between both monomers approaches 1:1, in agreement with experimental results. Moreover, competition by metastable assemblies is highly temperature dependent and hampers the assembly of equilibrium nanostructures most effectively at intermediate temperatures. We demonstrate that the rate of the assembly process may be optimized by tuning the cooling rate. Finally, it is shown by simulation that increasing the driving force for assembly stepwise by changing the solvent composition may circumvent metastable pathways and thereby force the assembly process directly into the correct pathway.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17205-17210
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS)
Issue number43
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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