"Living systems operate in a far-from-equilibrium state: they need to eat, drink, and breathe to power the continuous chemical processes occurring in each of their cells, in order to stay alive. When the supply of food or nutrients is stopped the living systems relax to their thermodynamic equilibrium state, that is, death. So far, scientists (and chemists in particular) have managed to make synthetic analogs of many of the intricate structures found in nature, using the tools of organic and supramolecular chemistry. These synthetic structures, impressive as they are, mostly reside either in their thermodynamic equilibrium, or in kinetically trapped states. In sharp contrast with nature, however, we are not yet able to keep chemical structure in a far-from-equilibrium state reliably and controllably. In this proposal we attempt to overcome the latter inability by pushing biological and synthetic supramolecular assemblies out of their thermodynamic equilibrium using a chemical fuel or using thermal/magnetic field gradients, respectively. We believe that the resulting dissipative nonequilibrium self-assemblies (NON-EQ-SA) envisioned by Prigogine (Nobel laureate 1977) can be controlled to a higher extent than currently possible in equilibrium. Our method to control the structure of supramolecular assemblies would be of great importance to materials science and medicine, where well-defined entities lead to improved materials performance and pharmacological efficacy, respectively."
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