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Self-assembled Tubular Nanostructures with Functional Pores

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - NanoSpace (Self-assembled Tubular Nanostructures with Functional Pores)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-08-31

Nature has demonstrated its capacity to form self-assembled tubular systems with specific functions; some examples being the mosaic tobacco virus or tube-forming proteins, such as tubulin or aquaporin. Driven by their large variety of potential applications, their nanometre-scale dimensions, and their appealing high aspect ratio, scientists are increasingly being attracted to the challenge of designing artificial nanotubular and nanoporous materials.

In this context, NanoSpace arises as an unconventional and versatile biologically inspired project, based on molecular self-assembly, towards organic water-soluble tubular architectures endowed with well-defined hydrophobic nanospaces. This project is focused on introducing catalytic function to such porous nanostructures. The inner confined space of the nanotubes would provide with controlled chemical coatings (i.e. hydrophobic) so that they can extract and host molecules as a function of their size and chemical affinity. The attachment of catalysts would allow the transformation of specifically recognized molecules. The ultimate objective would be the fabrication of advanced nanoporous materials for the extraction and catalytic transformation of specific molecules as a function of their size and chemical nature.

NanoSpace introduces fundamental challenges and unprecedented approaches in chemical self-assembly. NanoSpace has been devised as a starting point toward highly innovative functional nanomaterials with engineered pores that may offer an unprecedented degree of selectivity in terms of extraction and transformation of specific chemicals.
Firstly, we have established the methodology to reach water-soluble nanotubes with lipophilic pores and to encapsulate dyes. Due to presence of multiple factors governing catalytic reactions in confined spaces, a precise control of the self-assembly of the monomers and the encapsulation process inside the nanostructures needs to be reached. For that reason, we have evaluated the impact of the chemical structure and/or the self-assembly conditions on the formation of the polymeric nanotubes. This investigation has allowed us selecting the best monomer candidates and the most convenient self-assembly scenario for our project. The results of these investigations have been published in two articles in high impact journals.

Thus, the molecules that constitutes the functional nanotubes have been synthesized and their corresponding spontaneous organization in water that leads to helically chiral nanotubes able to extract and encapsulate guest molecules that are compatible in size and chemical affinity with the tube pore is being tested. We expect that we can publish the results of these investigations soon.

Finally, we continue working on the study of the catalytic properties of the new robust supramolecular functional nanotubes formed which constitutes a key goal in NanoSpace Project. If successful, the protection of exploitable results will be considered.
If succeeded, we will be able to develop a methodology for the construction of innovative functional nanomaterials with unmatched complexity and original properties that will offer an unprecedented degree of selectivity in terms of extraction and transformation of specific chemicals. We would like to advance toward the fabrication of aligned nanotube networks that could be applied as nanoporous membranes for the elimination of pollutants in water samples with unprecedented selectivity and performance.