Our research group works on non-equilbrium self-assembly of molecules. On the one hand, we do so to develop conceptually new dynamic supramolecular materials for a wide range of applications, including healthcare and robotics. On the other hand, we aim to better understand biology, typical life-like processes and the origin of life.

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

Dynamic Supramolecular Materials

Supramolecular materials are materials formed via self-assembly of molecules driven by non-covalent interactions, such as hydrogen bonding and electrostatic interactions. Prominent examples are liquid crystals, drug delivery vehicles and peptide scaffolds that are used in regenerative medicine. Dynamic supramolecular materials, are also formed by self-assembly, but they are designed to be intrinsically unstable. This 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 how new material properties arise from materials that are formed via dissipative self-assembly, and we explore their unique material properties. One of these properties is their spatiotemporal control, which we demonstrate below with self-erasing inks. Where we apply our fuel, the ink emerge. But, due to its intrinsically unstable nature, the ink self-erases with a tuneable lifetime.

This led to the following publications:

M. Tena-Solsona,* B. Rieß,* R. Grötsch , F. Löhrer, C. Wanzke,  B. Käsdorf, A. Bausch, P. Mueller-Buschbaum, O. Lieleg, J. Boekhoven
Non-equilibrium dissipative supramolecular materials with a tunable lifetime
2017 Nature Commun.
Media coverage:
Self-destructing material mimics nature“, Chemistry World
Self-Destructing Materials Could Create Vanishing Ink“, Live Science
Supramolecular materials with a time switch“, TUM News
Self-disposing supramolecular materials with a tunable lifetime“, Science Daily
Materialien, die sich selbst entsorgen“,

J. Boekhoven,* W. Hendriksen, G. Koper, R. Eelkema, J. van Esch,
Transient assembly of active materials fueled by a chemical reaction
2015, Science
Media coverage:
Fueling connections between chemistry and biology”Science
Kunstmatige nanovezels doen alsof ze leven“, NRC Handelsblad (Dutch National newspaper)
Chemische brandstof brengt synthetische materialen tot leven“,
Brandstof brengt synthetisch celskelet tot leven“,

J. Boekhoven, A. Brizard, K. Kowlgi, G. Koper, R. Eelkema, J. van Esch
Dissipative Self-Assembly of a Molecular Gelator by Using a Chemical Fuel
2010, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.
This work was nominated as a “Hot Paper” and was highlighted in Nature Chem.