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Impact of Alkyl Spacer Length on Aggregation Pathways in Kinetically Controlled Supramolecular Polymerization

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journal contribution
posted on 20.01.2016, 00:00 by Soichiro Ogi, Vladimir Stepanenko, Johannes Thein, Frank Würthner
We have investigated the kinetic and thermodynamic supramolecular polymerizations of a series of amide-functionalized perylene bisimide (PBI) organogelator molecules bearing alkyl spacers of varied lengths (ethylene to pentylene chains, PBI-1-C2 to PBI-1-C5) between the amide and PBI imide groups. These amide-functionalized PBIs form one-dimensional fibrous nanostructures as the thermodynamically favored states in solvents of low polarity. Our in-depth studies revealed, however, that the kinetic behavior of their supramolecular polymerization is dependent on the spacer length. Propylene- and pentylene-tethered PBIs follow a similar polymerization process as previously observed for the ethylene-tethered PBI. Thus, the monomers of these PBIs are kinetically trapped in conformationally restricted states through intramolecular hydrogen bonding between the amide and imide groups. In contrast, the intramolecularly hydrogen-bonded monomers of butylene-tethered PBI spontaneously self-assemble into nanoparticles, which constitute an off-pathway aggregate state with regard to the thermodynamically stable fibrous supramolecular polymers obtained. Thus, for this class of π-conjugated system, an unprecedented off-pathway aggregate with high kinetic stability could be realized for the first time by introducing an alkyl linker of optimum length (C4 chain) between the amide and imide groups. Our current system with an energy landscape of two competing nucleated aggregation pathways is applicable to the kinetic control over the supramolecular polymerization by the seeding approach.