Catalytic control over the formation of supramolecular materials
In this Perspective, we will discuss how the rate of formation of supramolecular materials can be drastically enhanced by catalytically controlling the rate of formation of their molecular building blocks, resulting in the formation of out-of-equilibrium soft materials with enhanced mechanical properties. Also, the use of surface confined, patterned catalysts allows spatial control over self-assembly, which can be applied to the formation of regular, micrometer sized hydrogel patterns. Catalysis has been applied for decades as an indispensable tool in the synthesis of both simple and highly complex molecules and polymers, ranging from milligram lab-scale to multi-ton industrial processes. However, despite being widespread in nature, until recently the use of catalysis to control the formation of supramolecular materials has remained limited. We will demonstrate the large potential of using catalysis as a tool in the construction of soft materials, illustrated by recent developments.