Solid state NMR studies of gels derived from low molecular mass gelators
Since its invention more than six decades ago, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy has evolved as an inevitable part of chemical as well as structural analysis of small molecules, polymers, biomaterials and hybrid materials. In the solution state, due to the increased viscosity of complex viscoelastic fluids such as gels, liquid crystals and other soft materials, the rate of molecular tumbling is reduced, which in turn affects the chemical shift anisotropy, dipolar and quadrupolar interactions. As a consequence the solution state NMR spectra show broad lines, and therefore, extracting detailed structural information is a challenging task. In this context, solid state (SS) NMR has the ability to distinguish between a minute amount of polymorphic forms, conformational changes, and the number of non-equivalent molecules in an asymmetric unit of a crystal lattice, and to provide both qualitative as well as quantitative analytical data with a short-range order. Therefore, SS NMR has continued to evolve as an indispensable tool for structural analysis and gave birth to a new field called NMR crystallography. Solid state cross polarization (CP) and high resolution (HR) magic angle spinning (MAS) NMR spectroscopy has been used to study weak interactions in polymer gels. However, the application of SS NMR spectroscopy to study gels derived from low molecular weight gelators has been limited until recently. In this review, we will focus on the importance of solid state NMR spectroscopy in understanding and elucidating the structure of supramolecular gels derived from low molecular weight gelators with selected examples.