The controlled formation of complex and functional 1-, 2-, and 3D hierarchical assemblies from molecular building blocks represents a key current challenge. Herein, we report the use of a seeded growth approach for a series of perylenediimide-based molecules (PDIs 1–4) to access otherwise inaccessible self-assembly pathways that yield complex hierarchical structures. The key to the new approach is to use hetero-seeds which possess a different composition and morphology from that of the molecular building block. For example, a nanotube seed (from PDI 3) and a microribbon seed (from PDI 4) were found to initiate different self-assembly pathways for PDI 1, which normally assembles to yield nanocoils. This led to the formation of unprecedented 3D scroll-like and scarf-like hierarchical nanostructures, respectively. Also, the hetero-seeds from PDI 3 initiate hidden self-assembly pathways of PDI 2 to generate 1D tubular heterojunctions. Significantly, this new strategy offers new opportunities to create emergent and functional hierarchical and complex structures from small molecule precursors.
- hidden self-assembly pathways
- hierarchical structures
- perylenediimide-based molecules