Here, transient supramolecular hydrogels that are formed through simple aging-induced seeded self-assembly of molecular gelators are reported. In the involved molecular self-assembly system, multicomponent gelators are formed from a mixture of precursor molecules and, typically, can spontaneously self-assemble into thermodynamically more stable hydrogels through a multilevel self-sorting process. In the present work, it is surprisingly found that one of the precursor molecules is capable of self-assembling into nano-sized aggregates upon a gentle aging treatment. Importantly, these tiny aggregates can serve as seeds to force the self-assembly of gelators along a kinetically controlled pathway, leading to transient hydrogels that eventually spontaneously convert into thermodynamically more stable hydrogels over time. Such an aging-induced seeded self-assembly process is not only a new route toward synthetic out-of-equilibrium supramolecular systems, but also suggests the necessity of reporting the age of self-assembling building block solutions in other self-assembly systems.
- pathway complexity
- supramolecular chemistry