Self-assembly and self-organization processes are the thread that connects the reductionism of chemical reactions to the complexity and emergence of a living dynamic system. Artificial self-assembly derives its principles from nature and its processes, and uses this understanding to design nanoscale devices with predefined function. However, complex forms of organized matter cannot be synthesized bond-by-bond. Rather, a new type of synthesis based on non-covalent forces is necessary to generate functional entities from the bottom up. This growing field of the chemical sciences — self-assembly — challenges much of the basic premises of conventional Woodwardian chemistry: The conceptualization of an organized state of matter requires in-depth understanding not only of chemical reactivity but also of non-covalent forces necessary to translate chemical information into functional superstructures.
The rosette nanotubes are organic materials obtained through the hierarchical self-assembly and self-organization of rationally designed synthetic molecular modules [1-3]. These materials have demonstrated that complex yet well-defined nanostructures maintained by H-bonds, dipolar and London dispersion forces could be assembled not only in the solid state or in organic media but also in water under physiological conditions. Thus, the synergies between non-covalent forces that govern a supramolecular synthetic scheme can be rationally approached and integrated. This work has also expanded the repertoire of design principles not only for the generation of well-defined static assemblies but ultimately also for the implementation of nanoscale systems displaying a dynamic relationship with their environment, the ability to adapt, evolve and replicate .
The ultimate goal of nanoscale science and technology is to understand and predict the chemical and physical properties of individual and ensembles of atoms and molecules. A primary outcome would be the generation of functional devices capable of performing a predefined sensing, electronic, photonic, mechanical, biological or transport function. These fundamentally and technologically vital activities can be readily integrated in the rosette nanotubes' repertoire of properties. Indeed, photonic and electronic nanowires, mechanically robust nanofibers, supramolecular therapeutics, or ion channels could be derived from the rosette nanotubes. It is, therefore, anticipated that these materials, the methods for their preparation, as well as the approaches to characterize and study their properties could benefit the scientific community in molecular nanotechnology broadly defined and more specifically in materials and polymer sciences, molecular recognition, dynamic chemistry, molecular electronics and drug discovery.
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Fenniri, H.; Deng, B.-L.; Ribbe, A. E.; Hallenga, K.; Jacob, J.; Thiyagarajan, P. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 2002, 99, 6487-6492.
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National Institute for Nanotechnology, National Research Council and the University of Alberta
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