Perspectives in Chemistry: From Supramolecular Chemistry towards Adaptive Chemistry

Haworth Lecture Theatre Room 101
Monday 18 March 2019 (14:00-16:00)

Registration for this lecture is essential.


Lecturer: Nobel Laureate Professor Jean-Marie Lehn, Université de Strasbourg

Supramolecular chemistry aims at generating highly complex chemical systems from molecular components held together by non-covalent intermolecular forces, on the basis of the molecular information stored in the covalent framework of the components. A step beyond consists in the design of systems undergoing self-organization, i.e. systems capable of spontaneously generating well-defined functional architectures by self-assembly from their components.   

Supramolecular chemistry is intrinsically a dynamic chemistry due to the lability of the interactions connecting the molecular components of a supramolecular entity. The same holds for molecular chemistry when the molecular entity contains covalent bonds that may form and break reversibly. These features allow for a continuous change in constitution by reorganization and exchange of building blocks and define a Constitutional Dynamic Chemistry (CDC) on both levels. CDC takes advantage of dynamic diversity to allow variation and selection and operates on dynamic constitutional diversity in response to either internal or external factors to achieve adaptation.

CDC generates networks of dynamically interconverting constituents, constitutional dynamic networks, presenting agonistic and antagonistic relationships between their constituents that may respond to perturbations by physical stimuli or to chemical effectors.

The implementation of these concepts points to the emergence of adaptive and evolutive chemistry, towards systems of increasing complexity.



  • Lehn, J.-M., Supramolecular Chemistry: Concepts and Perspectives, VCH Weinheim, 1995.
  • Lehn, J.-M., Dynamic combinatorial chemistry and virtual combinatorial libraries, Chem. Eur. J., 1999, 5, 2455.
  • Lehn, J.-M., Toward complex matter: Supramolecular chemistry and self-organization, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 2002, 99, 4763.
  • Lehn, J.-M., From supramolecular chemistry towards constitutional dynamic chemistry and adaptive chemistry, Chem. Soc. Rev., 2007, 36, 151.     
  • Lehn, J.-M., Chapter 1, inConstitutional Dynamic Chemistry, ed. M. Barboiu, Topics Curr. Chem, 2012, 322, 1-32.
  • Lehn, J.-M., Perspectives in Chemistry – Steps towards Complex Matter,  Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2013, 52, 2836-2850.
  • Lehn, J.-M., Perspectives in Chemistry – Aspects of Adaptive Chemistry and Materials, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2015, 54, 3276-3289.