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Systems Chemistry: Reaction Networks for Life-Like Behavior


Life is probably - and I am open for discussions - nothing else but a complex network of biochemical reactions that hierarchically integrate into systems to realize emergent functions: Adaptation, evolution, self-replication, decision-making.

Systems chemistry is the science of studying networks of chemical reactions, that can cross regulate by activation, autocatalysis and feedback, and that can be coupled to self-assembling species, to in the end realize emergent structural and functional properties not inherent to a single molecule. It connects different fields of chemistry and soft matter nanoscience, and will be one of the interdisciplinary key disciplines in chemical sciences for the 21st century, providing fundamental breakthroughs towards life-like materials with adaptive, active and autonomous functions, ultimately giving rise to some sort of chemical intelligence.

We research on chemical reaction networks with an emphasis on dissipative cyclic reaction networks for materials systems applications, and with a focus to connect different languages of chemical reaction networks. Dynamic DNA Nanoscience and some chemical fuels are parts of our toolbox. 

This research is supported by an ERC Starting Grant and by the European Training Network Creanet.


Wiley Book

5 Selected References:

1. Deng, J. Walther, A. “Fuel-Driven Transient DNA Strand Displacement Circuitry with Self-Resetting Function” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 142, 21102 (2020).

2. Deng, J., Walther, A. "ATP-Powered Molecular Recognition to Engineer Transient Multivalency and Self-Sorting 4D Hierarchical Systems" Nat. Commun. 11, 3658 (2020).

3. Deng, J.; Bezold, D.; Jessen, H.; Walther, A. “Multiple Light Control Mechanisms in ATP‐fueled Non‐Equilibrium DNA Systems” Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 59, 12084 (2020).

4. Deng, J.; Walther, A. “Pathway Complexity in Fuel-Driven DNA Nanostructures with Autonomous Reconfiguration of Multiple Dynamic Steady States” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 142, 685, (2020).

5. Heinen, L.; Walther, A. “Programmable Dynamic Steady States in ATP-Driven Non-Equilibrium DNA Systems“ Sci. Adv., 5, eaaw0590, (2019).



1. Deng, J., Walther, A. “ATP-Responsive and ATP-Fueled Self-Assembling Systems and Materials” Adv. Mater. 32, 2002629 (2020).

2. Emerging area article: Heinen, L.; Walther, A. “Approaches to Program the Time Domain of Self-Assemblies“ Invited emerging area article for the 10th year Soft Matter issue, Soft Matter, 11, 7857 (2015).

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