Chemically programmed self-sorting of gelator networks

Kyle L. Morris, Lin Chen, Jaclyn Raeburn, Owen R. Sellick, Pepa Cotanda, Alison Paul, Peter C. Griffiths, Stephen M. King, Rachel K. O'Reilly, Louise C. Serpell, Dave J. Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

175 Citations (Scopus)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1480
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2013


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