Supramolecular Polymerization Provides Non-Equilibrium Product Distributions of Imine-Linked Macrocycles

Supramolecular polymerization of imine-linked macrocycles has been coupled to dynamic imine bond exchange within a series of macrocycles and oligomers. In this way, macrocycle synthesis is driven by supramolecular assembly, either into small aggregates supported by π-π interactions, or high-aspect ratio nanotubes stabilized primarily by electrostatic and solvophobic interactions. For the latter, supramolecular polymerization into nanotubes restricts imine exchange, thereby conferring chemical stability to the assemblies and their constituent macrocycles. Competition in the formation and component exchange among macrocycles favored pyridine-2,6-diimine-linked species due to their rapid synthesis, thermodynamic stability, and assembly into high-aspect ratio nanotubes under the reaction conditions. In addition, the pyridine-containing nanotubes inhibit the formation of similar macrocycles containing benzene-1,3-diimine-linkages, presumably by disrupting their assembly and templation. Finally, we exploit rapid imine exchange within weak, low-aspect ratio macrocycle aggregates to carry out monomer exchange reactions to macrocycles bearing pyridine moieties. Once a pyridine-containing dialdehyde has exchanged into a macrocycle, the macrocycle becomes capable of nanotube formation, which dramatically slows further imine exchange. This kinetic trap provides chemically diverse macrocycles that are not attainable by direct synthetic methods. Together these findings provide new insights into coupling supramolecular polymerization and dynamic covalent bond-forming processes and leverages this opportunity to target asymmetric nanotubes. We envision these findings spurring further research efforts in the synthesis of nanostructures with designed and emergent properties.