Building on our ability to design and synthesise molecules and our understanding of the noncovalent interactions between these molecules, the chemical sciences are currently entering the new territory of Systems Chemistry. This young field aims to develop complex molecular systems showing emergent properties; i.e. properties that go beyond the sum of the characteristics of the individual consituents of the system. This review gives an impression of the state of the art of the field by showing a diverse number of recent highlights, including out-of-equilibrium self-assembly, chemically fuelled molecular motion, compartmentalised chemical networks and designed oscillators. Subsequently a number of current challenges related to the design of complex chemical systems are discussed, including those of creating concurrent formation–destruction systems, continuously maintaining chemical systems away from equilibrium, incorporating feedback loops and pushing replication chemistry away from equilibrium. Finally, the prospects for Systems Chemistry are discussed including the tantalizing vision of the de novo synthesis of life and the idea of self-synthesising and self-repairing chemical factories.
- This article is part of the themed collections: Celebrating our 2018 prize and award winners and Supramolecular chemistry anniversary