Controlling Exchange Pathways in Dynamic Supramolecular Polymers by Controlling Defects


Supramolecular fibers, composed of monomers that self-assemble directionally via non-covalent interactions, are ubiquitous in nature and of great interest in chemistry. In these structures, the constitutive monomers continuously exchange in-and-out the assembly according to a well-defined supramolecular equilibrium. However, unraveling the exchange pathways and their molecular determinants constitutes a non-trivial challenge. Here we combine coarse-grained modeling, enhanced sampling, and machine learning to investigate the key factors controlling the monomer exchange pathways in synthetic supramolecular polymers having an intrinsic dynamic behavior. We demonstrate how the competition of directional vs. non-directional interactions between the monomers controls the creation/annihilation of defects in the supramolecular polymers, from where monomers exchange proceeds. This competition determines the exchange pathway, dictating whether a fiber statistically swaps monomers from the tips or all along its length. Finally, thanks to their generality, our models allow the investigation of molecular approaches to control the exchange pathways in these dynamic assemblies.