Molecular self-assembly and nanochemistry: a chemical strategy for the synthesis of nanostructures

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Science  29 Nov 1991:
Vol. 254, Issue 5036, pp. 1312-1319
DOI: 10.1126/science.1962191


Molecular self-assembly is the spontaneous association of molecules under equilibrium conditions into stable, structurally well-defined aggregates joined by noncovalent bonds. Molecular self-assembly is ubiquitous in biological systems and underlies the formation of a wide variety of complex biological structures. Understanding self-assembly and the associated noncovalent interactions that connect complementary interacting molecular surfaces in biological aggregates is a central concern in structural biochemistry. Self-assembly is also emerging as a new strategy in chemical synthesis, with the potential of generating nonbiological structures with dimensions of 1 to 10(2) nanometers (with molecular weights of 10(4) to 10(10) daltons). Structures in the upper part of this range of sizes are presently inaccessible through chemical synthesis, and the ability to prepare them would open a route to structures comparable in size (and perhaps complementary in function) to those that can be prepared by microlithography and other techniques of microfabrication.

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