Catalytic control over supramolecular gel formation

Job Boekhoven, Jos M. Poolman, Chandan Maity, Feng Li, Lars Van Der Mee, Christophe B. Minkenberg, Eduardo Mendes, Jan H. Van Esch, Rienk Eelkema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

222 Scopus citations


Low-molecular-weight gels show great potential for application in fields ranging from the petrochemical industry to healthcare and tissue engineering. These supramolecular gels are often metastable materials, which implies that their properties are, at least partially, kinetically controlled. Here we show how the mechanical properties and structure of these materials can be controlled directly by catalytic action. We show how in situ catalysis of the formation of gelator molecules can be used to accelerate the formation of supramolecular hydrogels, which drastically enhances their resulting mechanical properties. Using acid or nucleophilic aniline catalysis, it is possible to make supramolecular hydrogels with tunable gel-strength in a matter of minutes, under ambient conditions, starting from simple soluble building blocks. By changing the rate of formation of the gelator molecules using a catalyst, the overall rate of gelation and the resulting gel morphology are affected, which provides access to metastable gel states with improved mechanical strength and appearance despite an identical gelator composition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-437
Number of pages5
JournalNature Chemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - 24 Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


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