Supramolecular copolymers formed by the noncovalent synthesis of multiple components expand the complexity of functional molecular systems. However, varying the composition and microstructure of copolymers through tuning the interactions between building blocks remains a challenge. Here, we report a remarkable discovery of the temperature-dependent supramolecular copolymerization of the two chiral monomers 4,4′,4″-(1,3,5-triazine-2,4,6-triyl)tribenzamide (S-T) and 4,4′,4″-(benzene-1,3,5-triyl)tribenzamide (S-B). We first demonstrate in the homopolymerization of the two individual monomers that a subtle change from the central triazine to benzene in the chemical structure of the monomers significantly affects the properties of the resulting homopolymers in solution. Homopolymers formed by S-T exhibit enhanced stability in comparison to S-B. More importantly, through a combination of spectroscopic analysis and theoretical simulation, we reveal the complex process of copolymerization: S-T aggregates into homopolymers at elevated temperature, and upon slow cooling S-B gradually intercalates into the copolymers, to finally give copolymers with almost 80% alternating bonds at 10 °C. The formation of the predominantly alternating copolymers is plausibly contributed by preferred heterointeractions between triazine and benzene cores in S-T and S-B, respectively, at lower temperatures. Overall, this work unravels the complexity of a supramolecular copolymerization process where an intermediate heterointeraction (higher than one homointeraction and lower than the other homointeraction) presents and proposes a general method to elucidate the microstructures of copolymers responsive to temperature changes.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This project received funding from the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (Gravity program 024.001.035), The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO-TOP PUNT Grant No. 10018944), and the European Research Council (H2020-EU.1.1., SYNMAT project, ID 788618). T.S. acknowledges the Swiss national science foundation for a Postdoc Mobility fellowship. The authors thank Christiaan Corbet for the help of stopped-flow measurements. The authors also thank Nils C. Jansen for his contribution in synthesizing compounds. Pongphak Chidchob and Anja R. A. Palmans are acknowledged for fruitful discussions.
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