Supramolecular architectures that work out-of-equilibrium or that can change in specific ways when absorbing external energy are ubiquitous in nature. Gaining the ability to create via self-assembly artificial materials possessing such fascinating behaviors would have a major impact in many fields. However, the rational design of similar dynamic structures requires to understand and, even more challenging, to learn how to master the molecular mechanisms governing how the assembled systems evolve far from the equilibrium. Typically, this represents a daunting challenge due to the limited molecular insight that can be obtained by the experiments or by classical modeling approaches. Here we combine coarse-grained molecular models and advanced simulation approaches to study at submolecular (<5 Å) resolution a supramolecular tubule, which breaks and disassembles upon absorption of light energy triggering isomerization of its azobenzene-containing monomers. Our approach allows us to investigate the molecular mechanism of monomer transition in the assembly and to elucidate the kinetic process for the accumulation of the transitions in the system. Despite the stochastic nature of the excitation process, we demonstrate how these tubules preferentially dissipate the absorbed energy locally via the amplification of defects in their supramolecular structure. We find that this constitutes the best kinetic pathway for accumulating monomer transitions in the system, which determines the dynamic evolution out-of-equilibrium and the brittle behavior of the assembly under perturbed conditions. Thanks to the flexibility of our models, we finally come out with a general principle, where defects explain and control the brittle/soft behavior of such light-responsive assemblies.
- coarse-grained martini force field
- stimuli responsive
- supramolecular polymers
- n/a OA procedure