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Nanoscale assembly of enantiomeric supramolecular gels driven by the nature of solvents.

Nanoscale 2024 April 10
Understanding the key parameters that control the self-assembly process is critical to predict self-assembly modes in multi-component systems, which will lead to the development of nanofibrous materials with tuneable properties. Enantiomeric amino acid-based low-molecular-weight gelators (LMWGs) were mixed in polar (polar protic) and aromatic apolar (aromatic) solvents and compared to their individual counterparts to probe the effect of solvent polarity on the self-assembly process. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) reveals that xerogels of individual components display hollow needles in polar protic solvents, while chiral coils are observed in aromatic solvents. In contrast, the multi-component gel displays hollow needle morphologies in both solvents, indicating similar morphologies in polar protic solvents but an entirely different nanostructure for the individual gel networks in aromatic solvents. PXRD experiments performed on the dried gels showed that the nature of the solvents plays a vital role in the co-assembly process of multi-component gels. The self-assembly modes and the gel state structure of the gels are analysed by wide-angle X-ray diffraction (WAXS) and small-angle neutron diffraction (SANS), which reveals that the mixed gel undergoes different co-assembly modes depending on the nature of the solvent systems. This study shows that different co-assembly modes can be achieved for structurally similar components by varying the solvent polarity, demonstrating the importance of solvent choice in the self-assembly process of multi-component gels.

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