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Spatially resolved multicomponent gels

Abstract

Multicomponent supramolecular systems could be used to prepare exciting new functional materials, but it is often challenging to control the assembly across multiple length scales. Here we report a simple approach to forming patterned, spatially resolved multicomponent supramolecular hydrogels. A multicomponent gel is first formed from two low-molecular-weight gelators and consists of two types of fibre, each formed by only one gelator. One type of fibre in this ‘self-sorted network’ is then removed selectively by a light-triggered gel-to-sol transition. We show that the remaining network has the same mechanical properties as it would have done if it initially formed alone. The selective irradiation of sections of the gel through a mask leads to the formation of patterned multicomponent networks, in which either one or two networks can be present at a particular position with a high degree of spatial control.

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Figure 1: Schematic of assembly process.
Figure 2: Light-responsive gels formed from 1.
Figure 3: Multicomponent gels.
Figure 4: Selective network removal.
Figure 5: Spatially resolved removal of one network.

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Acknowledgements

E.R.D. thanks the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for a Doctorial Training Accounts studentship. D.A. thanks the EPSRC for a Fellowship (EP/L021978/1).

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E.R.D. and D.J.A. conceived the project and synthesized the gelators. E.R.D. and D.J.A. designed the experiments. E.R.D. carried out the gelation, irradiation and rheological experiments. E.G.B.E. carried out the NMR experiments. T.O.M. carried out the SEM experiments. All the authors contributed to writing the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dave J. Adams.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Draper, E., Eden, E., McDonald, T. et al. Spatially resolved multicomponent gels. Nature Chem 7, 848–852 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nchem.2347

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