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Molecular weaving

Abstract

Historically, the interlacing of strands at the molecular level has mainly been limited to coordination polymers and DNA. Despite being proposed on a number of occasions, the direct, bottom-up assembly of molecular building blocks into woven organic polymers remained an aspirational, but elusive, target for several decades. However, recent successes in two-dimensional and three-dimensional molecular-level weaving now offer new opportunities and research directions at the interface of polymer science and molecular nanotopology. This Perspective provides an overview of the features and potential of the periodic nanoscale weaving of polymer chains, distinguishing it from randomly entangled polymer networks and rigid crystalline frameworks. We review the background and experimental progress so far, and conclude by considering the potential of molecular weaving and outline some of the current and future challenges in this emerging field.

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Fig. 1: Busch and Hubin’s concept of ‘true’ molecular weaving and recent experimental examples of molecularly woven structures.
Fig. 2: Methodology for controlling crossing stereochemistry and connectivity.
Fig. 3: Overview of frameworks used to model random molecular-level entanglements.
Fig. 4: Examples of strategies to synthesize molecularly woven materials.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC; EP/P027067/1), the European Research Council (ERC Advanced Grant 786630) and East China Normal University for funding, and T. Bouwens for bringing D.A.L.’s attention to the Latin root of ‘complexity’. D.A.L. is a Royal Society Research Professor.

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Zhang, ZH., Andreassen, B.J., August, D.P. et al. Molecular weaving. Nat. Mater. 21, 275–283 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-021-01179-w

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