Morphology control in metallosupramolecular assemblies through solvent-induced steric demand†
Controlling the supramolecular self-assembly of π-conjugated systems into defined morphologies is a prerequisite for the preparation of functional materials. In recent years, the development of sophisticated sample preparation protocols and modulation of various experimental conditions (solvent, concentration, temperature, etc.) have enabled precise control over aggregation pathways of different types of monomer units. A common method to achieve pathway control consists in the combination of two miscible solvents in defined proportions – a “poor” and “good” solvent. However, the role of solvents of opposed polarity in the self-assembly of a given building block still remains an open question. Herein, we unravel the effect of aggregation-inducing solvent systems of opposed polarity (aqueous vs. non-polar media) on the supramolecular assembly of a new bolaamphiphilic Pt(II) complex. A number of experimental methods show a comparable molecular packing in both media driven by a synergy of solvophobic, aromatic and weak hydrogen-bonding interactions. However, morphological analysis of the respective aggregates in aqueous and non-polar media reveals a restricted aggregate growth in aqueous media into spherical nanoparticles and a non-restricted 2D-nanosheet formation in non-polar media. These findings are attributed to a considerably more efficient solvation and, in turn, increased steric demand of the hydrophilic chains in aqueous media than in nonpolar media, which can be explained by the entrapment of water molecules in the hydrophilic aggregate shell via hydrogen bonds. Our findings reveal that the different solvation of peripheral solubilizing groups in solvents of opposed polarity is an efficient method for morphology control in self-assembly.