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Controlling Chemical Self-Assembly by Solvent-Dependent Dynamics

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journal contribution
posted on 2012-08-15, 00:00 authored by Peter A. Korevaar, Charley Schaefer, Tom F. A. de Greef, E. W. Meijer
The influence of the ratio between poor and good solvent on the stability and dynamics of supramolecular polymers is studied via a combination of experiments and simulations. Step-wise addition of good solvent to supramolecular polymers assembled via a cooperative (nucleated) growth mechanism results in complete disassembly at a critical good/poor solvent ratio. In contrast, gradual disassembly profiles upon addition of good solvent are observed for isodesmic (non-nucleated) systems. Due to the weak association of good solvent molecules to monomers, the solvent-dependent aggregate stability can be described by a linear free-energy relationship. With respect to dynamics, the depolymerization of π-conjugated oligo­(p-phenylene vinylene) (OPV) assemblies in methylcyclohexane (MCH) upon addition of chloroform as a good solvent is shown to proceed with a minimum rate around a critical chloroform/MCH solvent ratio. This minimum disassembly rate bears an intriguing resemblance to phenomena observed in protein unfolding, where minimum rates are observed at the thermodynamic midpoint of a protein denaturation experiment. A kinetic nucleation–elongation model in which the rate constants explicitly depend on the good solvent fraction is developed to rationalize the kinetic traces and further extend the insights by simulation. It is shown that cooperativity, i.e., the nucleation of new aggregates, plays a key role in the minimum polymerization and depolymerization rate at the critical solvent composition. Importantly, this shows that the mixing protocol by which one-dimensional aggregates are prepared via solution-based processing using good/poor solvent mixtures is of major influence on self-assembly dynamics.

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