Self-Assembly of Photoresponsive Molecular Amphiphiles in Aqueous Media

Shaoyu Chen, Romain Costil, Franco King Chi Leung (Corresponding Author), Ben L. Feringa

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)


Amphiphilic molecules, comprising hydrophobic and hydrophilic moieties and the intrinsic propensity to self-assemble in aqueous environment, sustain a fascinating spectrum of structures and functions ranging from biological membranes to ordinary soap. Facing the challenge to design responsive, adaptive, and out-of-equilibrium systems in water, the incorporation of photoresponsive motifs in amphiphilic molecular structures offers ample opportunity to design supramolecular systems that enables functional responses in water in a non-invasive way using light. Here, we discuss the design of photoresponsive molecular amphiphiles, their self-assembled structures in aqueous media and at air–water interfaces, and various approaches to arrive at adaptive and dynamic functions in isotropic and anisotropic systems, including motion at the air–water interface, foam formation, reversible nanoscale assembly, and artificial muscle function. Controlling the delicate interplay of structural design, self-assembling conditions and external stimuli, these responsive amphiphiles open several avenues towards application such as soft adaptive materials, controlled delivery or soft actuators, bridging a gap between artificial and natural dynamic systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11604-11627
Number of pages24
JournalAngewandte Chemie - International Edition
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • aqueous medium
  • photoresponsive amphiphile
  • responsive foam
  • soft material
  • supramolecular assembly

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry


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