Competing Interactions in Hierarchical Porphyrin Self-Assembly Introduce Robustness in Pathway Complexity

Mathijs F. J. Mabesoone, Albert J. Markvoort, Motonori Banno, Tomoko Yamaguchi, Floris Helmich, Yuki Naito, Eiji Yashima, Anja R. A. Palmans, and E. W. Meijer

Published: 27/06/2018


Pathway complexity in supramolecular polymerization has recently sparked interest as a method to generate complex material behavior. The response of these systems relies on the existence of a metastable, kinetically trapped state. In this work, we show that strong switch-like behavior in supramolecular polymers can also be achieved through the introduction of competing aggregation pathways. This behavior is illustrated with the supramolecular polymerization of a porphyrin-based monomer at various concentrations, solvent compositions, and temperatures. It is found that the monomers aggregate via an isodesmic mechanism in weakly coupled J-type aggregates at intermediate solvent quality and temperature, followed by nucleated H-aggregates at lower solvent qualities and temperatures. At further increased thermodynamic driving forces, such as high concentration and low temperature, the H-aggregates can form hierarchical superhelices. Our mathematical models show that, contrary to a single-pathway polymerization, the existence of the isodesmic aggregation pathway buffers the free monomer pool and renders the nucleation of the H-aggregates insensitive to concentration changes in the limit of high concentrations. We also show that, at a given temperature or solvent quality, the thermodynamically stable aggregate morphology can be selected by controlling the remaining free external parameter. As a result, the judicious application of pathway complexity allows us to synthesize a diverse set of materials from only a single monomer. We envision that the engineering of competing pathways can increase the robustness in a wide variety of supramolecular polymer materials and lead to increasingly versatile applications.

Full Access Link: Journal of the American Chemical Society