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Systems chemistry: controlling the complex behavior of mixtures of interacting molecules to develop molecular machines, interlocked polymers and new materials

Abstract

The present research program fits in the large field called Systems Chemistry, which englobes the study of the complex behavior of mixtures of interacting molecules and the investigation of the emergent properties arising from the intermolecular interactions among the components of the chemical mixtures. Systems chemistry has a broad definition, and its concepts are used to describe several phenomena in a wide range of research fields, from heterogenous catalysis to atmospheric chemistry. Our research proposal falls into the subcategory of complex synthetic systems in solution. As such, self-assembly techniques, which are based on careful management of the thermodynamic and kinetic parameters governing intermolecular noncovalent interactions, are at the heart of the present proposed investigation. Specifically, innovative hollow molecular receptors with well-defined central cavities are proposed as ring components of mechanically-linked molecular machines and interlocked polymers that are designed to, respectively, operate far from the thermodynamic equilibrium and to demonstrate complex behavior such as feedback loop promoted by Brownian motion and auto-acceleration of intercomponent reactions. Consequently, mechanisms for coding and retrieving information into and from polymers as well as molecular machines able to partially store chemical energy from an external chemical input rather than totally dissipate it as heat to reach thermodynamic equilibrium are envisioned and proposed. Furthermore, the state-of-of-the-art self-assembly techniques described in the present research program in association with cutting-edge polymer concepts and photo-catalysis allow us to propose innovative materials with potential applications in solar cell technologies, artificial photosynthetic devices, damaging-signaling materials and ultra-selective polymeric membranes. Such applications are described with the goal to face the harsh reality that our challenging research efforts must also lead to "something useful", namely new technologies. Although this research initiative seems too ambitious, the fundamental aspects for the success of the present project have been recently established by our research group during the JP-1 term. (AU)

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