Chemical signal activation of an organocatalyst enables control over soft material formation

Fanny Trausel, Chandan Maity, Jos M. Poolman, D.S.J. Kouwenberg, Frank Versluis, Jan H. Van Esch, Rienk Eelkema*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


Cells can react to their environment by changing the activity of enzymes in response to specific chemical signals. Artificial catalysts capable of being activated by chemical signals are rare, but of interest for creating autonomously responsive materials. We present an organocatalyst that is activated by a chemical signal, enabling temporal control over reaction rates and the formation of materials. Using self-immolative chemistry, we design a deactivated aniline organocatalyst that is activated by the chemical signal hydrogen peroxide and catalyses hydrazone formation. Upon activation of the catalyst, the rate of hydrazone formation increases 10-fold almost instantly. The responsive organocatalyst enables temporal control over the formation of gels featuring hydrazone bonds. The generic design should enable the use of a large range of triggers and organocatalysts, and appears a promising method for the introduction of signal response in materials, constituting a first step towards achieving communication between artificial chemical systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number884
Number of pages7
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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