Re-Programming Hydrogel Properties using a Fuel-driven Reaction Cycle

Nature uses catalysis as an indispensable tool to control assembly and reaction cycles in vital non-equilibrium supramolecular processes. For instance, enzymatic methionine oxidation regulates actin (dis)assembly, and catalytic guanosine triphosphate hydrolysis is found in tubulin (dis)assembly. Here we present a completely artificial reaction cycle which is driven by a chemical fuel that is catalytically obtained from a ‘pre-fuel’. The reaction cycle controls the disassembly and re-assembly of a hydrogel, where the rate of pre-fuel turnover dictates the morphology as well as the mechanical properties. By adding additional fresh aliquots of fuel and removing waste, the hydrogels can be re-programmed time after time. Overall, we show how catalysis can control fuel generation to control reaction / assembly kinetics and materials properties in life-like non-equilibrium systems.