Photo-modulation of supramolecular polymorphism in the self-assembly of a scissor-shaped azobenzene dyad into nanotoroids and fibers†
Recent advances in the research field of supramolecularly engineered dye aggregates have enabled the design of simple one-dimensional stacks such as fibers and of closed structures such as nanotoroids (nanorings). More complex and advanced supramolecular systems could potentially be designed using a molecule that is able to provide either of these distinct nanostructures under different conditions. In this study, we introduced bulky but strongly aggregating cholesterol units to a scissor-shaped azobenzene dyad framework, which affords either nanotoroids, nanotubes, or 1D fibers, depending on the substituents. This new dyad with two trans-azobenzene arms shows supramolecular polymorphism in its temperature-controlled self-assembly, leading to not only oligomeric nanotoroids as kinetic products, but also to one-dimensional fibers as thermodynamic products. This supramolecular polymorphism can also be achieved via photo-triggered self-assembly, i.e., irradiation of a monomeric solution of the dyad with two cis-azobenzene arms using strong visible light leads to the preferential formation of nanotoroids, whereas irradiation with weak visible light leads to the predominant formation of 1D fibers. This is the first example of a successful light-induced modulation of supramolecular polymorphism to produce distinctly nanostructured aggregates under isothermal conditions.