Controlling the order and spatial distribution of self-assembly in multicomponent supramolecular systems could underpin exciting new functional materials, but it is extremely challenging. When a solution of different components self-assembles, the molecules can either coassemble, or self-sort, where a preference for like-like intermolecular interactions results in coexisting, homomolecular assemblies. A challenge is to produce generic and controlled ‘one-pot’ fabrication methods to form separate ordered assemblies from ‘cocktails’ of two or more self-assembling species, which might have relatively similar molecular structures and chemistry. Self-sorting in supramolecular gel phases is hence rare. Here we report the first example of the pH-controlled self-sorting of gelators to form self-assembled networks in water. Uniquely, the order of assembly can be predefined. The assembly of each component is preprogrammed by the pKa of the gelator. This pH-programming method will enable higher level, complex structures to be formed that cannot be accessed by simple thermal gelation.
|Publication status||Published - 12 Feb 2013|