How should multicomponent supramolecular gels be characterised?
Low molecular weight gels, or supramolecular gels, are formed when small molecules self-assemble into fibrous structures. Above a critical concentration, the entanglement and cross-linking of these structures leads to the formation of a self-supporting gel. There are many examples where a single component is used to form such gels. There is however an ever-increasing interest in using multiple components. Here, if each component is able to form a gel by itself, a range of fibre types are possible, formed by either random or specific associations between the low molecular weight gelators (LMWG). The properties of the networks will depend on how the LMWG assemble into the primary fibrous structures and then how these primary structures entangle. As such, to understand these gels, it is necessary to understand the networks across multiple length scales. Here, we discuss the current state of the art, the effectiveness of the different techniques that have been used, and hopefully provide the impetus for the field to move away from the cartoon-level discussion of assembly.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Peptide and protein nanotechnology