Free-standing supramolecular hydrogel objects by reaction-diffusion

Matija Lovrak, Wouter E.J. Hendriksen, Chandan Maity, Serhii Mytnyk, Volkert Van Steijn, Rienk Eelkema*, Jan H. Van Esch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)
50 Downloads (Pure)


Self-assembly provides access to a variety of molecular materials, yet spatial control over structure formation remains difficult to achieve. Here we show how reaction-diffusion (RD) can be coupled to a molecular self-assembly process to generate macroscopic free-standing objects with control over shape, size, and functionality. In RD, two or more reactants diffuse from different positions to give rise to spatially defined structures on reaction. We demonstrate that RD can be used to locally control formation and self-assembly of hydrazone molecular gelators from their non-assembling precursors, leading to soft, free-standing hydrogel objects with sizes ranging from several hundred micrometres up to centimeters. Different chemical functionalities and gradients can easily be integrated in the hydrogel objects by using different reactants. Our methodology, together with the vast range of organic reactions and self-assembling building blocks, provides a general approach towards the programmed fabrication of soft microscale objects with controlled functionality and shape.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15317
Number of pages10
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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