Our research group aims at developing and better understanding the self-assembly of molecules under non-equilibrium conditions. On the one hand, we do so to develop conceptually new dissipative supramolecular materials for a wide range of applications, including healthcare and robotics. On the other hand, we aim to better understand processes we typically associated with life, such as self-replication or motility. Greater understanding of life-like processes, especially in abiotic  materials, can also shine new light on the origin of life.

Research in the group is heavily bio-inspired and uses organic, physical and supramolecular chemistry as its toolboxes.

Dissipative Supramolecular Materials

Supramolecular materials are materials formed via self-assembly of molecules driven by non-covalent interactions. Prominent examples are liquid crystals in LCDs, amphiphiles in drug delivery vehicles and peptide scaffolds that are used in regenerative medicine. Dissipative supramolecular materials, are also formed by self-assembly, but they are designed to be intrinsically unstable, which means that these materials can only be sustained by a constant supply of energy. This energy is subsequently dissipated via irreversible entropy producing processes.

In this work, we study the how to create dissipative supramolecular materials and we study their unique material properties. One of these properties is their spatiotemporal control; that means, these materials can be controlled over space and time by kinetic parameters such as the concentration of reagents. We demonstrate this feature with  self-erasing inks below. Where we apply our reagents, the supramolecular ink emerges. But, due to its intrinsically unstable nature, the ink self-erases with a tuneable lifetime.

Our research in this field has led to the following publications:

M. Tena-Solsona, et al. “Non-equilibrium dissipative supramolecular materials with a tunable lifetime”, 2017 Nature Commun.

S. van Rossum, et al. “Dissipative out-of-equilibrium assembly of man-made supramolecular materials”, 2017, Chem. Soc. Rev.

J. Boekhoven, et al. “Transient assembly of active materials fueled by a chemical reaction”, 2015, Science

J. Boekhoven, et al. “Dissipative Self-Assembly of a Molecular Gelator by Using a Chemical Fuel”, 2010, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.