There have been several attempts to construct supramolecular chemical systems that mimic the phase transitions in living systems. However, most of these phase transitions are one-to-one and induced by one stimulus or chemical; there have been few reports on the pathway-dependent phase transition of supramolecular self-assemblies in multi-step. To induce multistep phase transitions, molecular crystals were prepared that contained a cationic amphiphile bearing azobenzene and disulfide groups. A reducing agent caused the crystals to become vesicles, and adjacent, non-touching vesicles fused under UV and subsequent visible light. Adding a reducing agent to the worm-like aggregates that were generated after UV irradiation of the original crystals resulted in the growth of sheet-like aggregates. 1H NMR and fluorescence anisotropy measurements showed that a series of phase transitions was induced by changes in the phase structures from molecular conversions of the reactive amphiphiles. The multiple pathway-dependent phase transitions of supramolecular self-assemblies can provide a methodology for developing new stimuli-responsive materials that exhibit the desirable properties under specific circumstances from a systems chemistry viewpoint.
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