Polymorphism in Benzene-1,3,5-tricarboxamide Supramolecular Assemblies in Water: A Subtle Trade-off between Structure and Dynamics

Nicholas M. Matsumoto, René P. M. Lafleur, Xianwen Lou, Kuo-Chih Shih, Sjors P. W. Wijnands, Clément Guibert, Johannes W. A. M. van Rosendaal, Ilja K. Voets, Anja R. A. Palmans, Yao Lin, and E. W. Meijer

Published: 17/10/2018


In biology, polymorphism is a well-known phenomenon by which a discrete biomacromolecule can adopt multiple specific conformations in response to its environment. The controlled incorporation of polymorphism into noncovalent aqueous assemblies of synthetic small molecules is an important step toward the development of bioinspired responsive materials. Herein, we report on a family of carboxylic acid functionalized water-soluble benzene-1,3,5-tricarboxamides (BTAs) that self-assemble in water to form one-dimensional fibers, membranes, and hollow nanotubes. Interestingly, one of the BTAs with the optimized position of the carboxylic group in the hydrophobic domain yields nanotubes that undergo reversible temperature-dependent dynamic reorganizations. SAXS and Cryo-TEM data show the formation of elongated, well-ordered nanotubes at elevated temperatures. At these temperatures, increased dynamics, as measured by hydrogen–deuterium exchange, provide enough flexibility to the system to form well-defined nanotube structures with apparently defect-free tube walls. Without this flexibility, the assemblies are frozen into a variety of structures that are very similar at the supramolecular level, but less defined at the mesoscopic level.

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