Issue 13, 2021

Emerging applications for living crystallization-driven self-assembly


The use of crystallization as a tool to control the self-assembly of polymeric and molecular amphiphiles in solution is attracting growing attention for the creation of non-spherical nanoparticles and more complex, hierarchical assemblies. In particular, the seeded growth method termed living crystallization-driven self-assembly (CDSA) has been established as an ambient temperature and potentially scalable platform for the preparation of low dispersity samples of core–shell fiber-like or platelet micellar nanoparticles. Significantly, this method permits predictable control of size, and access to branched and segmented structures where functionality is spatially-defined. Living CDSA operates under kinetic control and shows many analogies with living chain-growth polymerizations of molecular organic monomers that afford well-defined covalent polymers of controlled length except that it covers a much longer length scale (ca. 20 nm to 10 μm). The method has been applied to a rapidly expanding range of crystallizable polymeric amphiphiles, which includes block copolymers and charge-capped homopolymers, to form assemblies with crystalline cores and solvated coronas. Living CDSA seeded growth methods have also been transposed to a wide variety of π-stacking and hydrogen-bonding molecular species that form supramolecular polymers in processes termed “living supramolecular polymerizations”. In this article we outline the main features of the living CDSA method and then survey the promising emerging applications for the resulting nanoparticles in fields such as nanomedicine, colloid stabilization, catalysis, optoelectronics, information storage, and surface functionalization.

Graphical abstract: Emerging applications for living crystallization-driven self-assembly

Article information

Article type
16 Dec 2020
12 Feb 2021
First published
12 Feb 2021
This article is Open Access

All publication charges for this article have been paid for by the Royal Society of Chemistry
Creative Commons BY license

Chem. Sci., 2021,12, 4661-4682

Emerging applications for living crystallization-driven self-assembly

L. MacFarlane, C. Zhao, J. Cai, H. Qiu and I. Manners, Chem. Sci., 2021, 12, 4661 DOI: 10.1039/D0SC06878K

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