PerspectiveNoncovalent Chemistry

The construction of supramolecular systems

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Science  29 Mar 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6434, pp. 1396-1397
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav4677

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Self-assembly by intermolecular non-covalent interactions directed by self-recognition created the field of supramolecular chemistry (1). However, the word “self” appears to limit this field to mixing components in one assembly step where most of the complexity is inherent in the covalently synthesized reactants, rather than the result of a series of assembly steps that build more complex structures in reproducible procedures. The paradigm shift in supramolecular chemistry that we propose is the building of multicomponent systems following a multistep pathway—the emergence of molecular complexity (see the figure). The latter is not only directed by the information stored in the covalent framework of the components, but also controlled by the kinetics and thermodynamics of the reaction pathways selected in processing this information (2).