Various conventional reactions in polymer chemistry have been translated to the supramolecular domain, yet it has remained challenging to devise living supramolecular polymerization. To achieve this, self-organization occurring far from thermodynamic equilibrium - ubiquitously observed in nature - must take place. Prion infection is one example that can be observed in biological systems. Here, we present an 'artificial infection' process in which porphyrin-based monomers assemble into nanoparticles, and are then converted into nanofibres in the presence of an aliquot of the nanofibre, which acts as a 'pathogen'. We have investigated the assembly phenomenon using isodesmic and cooperative models and found that it occurs through a delicate interplay of these two aggregation pathways. Using this understanding of the mechanism taking place, we have designed a living supramolecular polymerization of the porphyrin-based monomers. Despite the fact that the polymerization is non-covalent, the reaction kinetics are analogous to that of conventional chain growth polymerization, and the supramolecular polymers were synthesized with controlled length and narrow polydispersity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Chemical Engineering(all)