Cooperative self-assembly: producing synthetic polymers with precise and concise primary structures

Alyssa-Jennifer Avestro, Matthew E Belowich, J Fraser Stoddart

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The quest to construct mechanically interlocked polymers, which present precise monodisperse primary structures that are produced both consistently and with high efficiencies, has been a daunting goal for synthetic chemists for many years. Our ability to realise this goal has been limited, until recently, by the need to develop synthetic strategies that can direct the formation of the desired covalent bonds in a precise and concise fashion while avoiding the formation of unwanted kinetic by-products. The challenge, however, is a timely and welcome one, as a consequence of, primarily, the potential for mechanically interlocked polymers to act as dynamic (noncovalent) yet robust (covalent) new materials for a wide array of applications. One such strategy which has been employed widely in recent years to address this issue, known as Dynamic Covalent Chemistry (DCC), is a strategy in which reactions operate under equilibrium and so offer elements of "proof-reading" and "error-checking" to the bond forming and breaking processes such that the final product distribution always reflects the thermodynamically most favourable compound. By coupling DCC with template-directed protocols, which utilise multiple weak noncovalent interactions to pre-organise and self-assemble simpler small molecular precursors into their desired geometries prior to covalent bond formation, we are able to produce compounds with highly symmetric, robust and complex topologies that are otherwise simply unobtainable by more traditional methods. Harnessing these strategies in an iterative, step-wise fashion brings us ever so much closer towards perfecting the controlled synthesis of high order main-chain mechanically interlocked polymers. This tutorial review focuses (i) on the development of DCC-namely, the formation of dynamic imine bonds-used in conjunction with template-directed protocols to afford a variety of mechanically interlocked molecules (MIMs) and ultimately (ii) on the synthesis of highly ordered poly[n]rotaxanes with high conversion efficiencies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5881-95
Number of pages15
JournalChemical Society Reviews
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2012

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