Development of low-molecular-weight gelators and polymer-based gelators

Polymer Journal 46, 776-782; doi: 10.1038/pj.2014.64; Published Online 13 August 2014


Kenji Hanabusa & Masahiro Suzuki

In this review, the development of low-molecular-weight gelators and polymer-based gelators is described. The driving forces for physical gelation are non-covalent bonds, such as hydrogen bonds, electrostatic interactions, van der Waals interactions and π–π interactions. When gelation occurs, the gelator molecules self-assemble into macromolecule-like aggregates through non-covalent intermolecular interactions. The close relationship between crystallization and gelation is discussed. Crystallization is a phenomenon in which crystals are separated from solution by the formation of a three-dimensional arrangement of solute through intermolecular interactions. Conversely, physical gelation is caused by the trapping of solvent in fibrous networks that are formed by gelator molecules through intermolecular interactions. Amino acid derivatives and cyclic dipeptides are introduced as typical gelators. To develop gelators that form semipermanent stable gels, a new concept termed ‘gelation-driving segments’ is proposed. Polymer-based gelators that can form semipermanent stable gels are synthesized by connecting gelation-driving segments to polymers or oligomers.