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Complexity in Self-Assembling Systems

In the last decades, self-assembly research has mostly been focusing on the exploration of (near) equilibrium states, as well as on systems containing only a single building block. 

While this has led to breakthroughs in the design of switchable and functional materials, the overall properties fall short of the complexity and functionalities in living systems.

Therefore, we pursue new types of self-assembly concepts to also serve the long term goal of integrating life-like features into artificial self-assembling systems in the long term.

Our strategies include:

  • kinetic pathway guidance to access non-equilibrium states selectively

  • self-sorting phenomena and reconfiguration in multicomponent systems

  • the integration of structural and chemical feedback loops to orchestrate events in time, and reach adaptive and autonomous systems

  • the integration of energy storage and energy dissipation schemes to obtain active steady-state systems with autonomous behavior

Closely connected to this research line are our efforts to advance microscopic imaging techniques, and to connect new types of structure formation processes and autonomous dynamics to the design of hierarchical materials.

6 Selected References on Static and Switchable Self-Assemblies:

1.  C. Sharma, A. Samanta, R. S. Schmidt, A. Walther “DNA-Based Signaling Networks for Transient Colloidal Co-Assemblies” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 145, 17819 (2023) (Editors’ choice).

2. C. Sharma, A. Walther “Self‐Regulating Colloidal Co‐Assemblies That Accelerate Their Own Destruction via Chemo‐Structural Feedback”, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 61, e202201573 (2022).

3. S. Loescher, A. Walther “Multivalency Pattern Recognition to Sort Colloidal Assemblies” Small 17, 2005668 (2021).

4. S. Loescher, A. Walther “Supracolloidal Self‐Assembly of Divalent Janus 3D DNA Origami via Programmable Multivalent Host/Guest Interactions” Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 59, 5515 (2020).

5. K. Han, D. Go, T. Tigges, K. Rahimi, A. J. K. Kuehne, A. Walther “Social Self-Sorting of Colloidal Families in Co-Assembling Microgel Systems” Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 56, 1521 (2017) (Selected as Hot Paper, highlighted in

6. A. H. Gröschel, A. Walther, T. Löbling, F. H. Schacher, H. Schmalz, A. H. E. Müller “Guided Hierarchical Co-assembly of Soft Patchy Particles” Nature, 503, 247 (2013).



1. X. Fan, A. Walther “1D Colloidal chains: recent progress from formation to emergent properties and applications“, Chem. Soc. Rev. 51, 4023 (2022).

1. Groeschel, A., Walther, A. “Block Copolymer Micelles with Inverted Morphologies” Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 56, 1572 (2017) (Highlight article).

2. Walther, A., Müller, A. H. E. "Janus particles: Synthesis, Self-Assembly, Physical Properties and Applications", Chem. Rev. 113, 5194 (2013).

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