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      Applying low-molecular weight supramolecular gelators in an environmental setting – self-assembled gels as smart materials for pollutant removal

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          Abstract

          Self-assembled gels have nanoscale ‘solid-like’ networks spanning across a liquid-like phase and are ideally suited for bringing these into intimate contact with polluted solution-phase media in an environmental setting, with the ultimate goal of environmental remediation.

          Abstract

          This review explores supramolecular gels as materials for environmental remediation. These soft materials are formed by self-assembling low-molecular-weight building blocks, which can be programmed with molecular-scale information by simple organic synthesis. The resulting gels often have nanoscale ‘solid-like’ networks which are sample-spanning within a ‘liquid-like’ solvent phase. There is intimate contact between the solvent and the gel nanostructure, which has a very high effective surface area as a result of its dimensions. As such, these materials have the ability to bring a solid-like phase into contact with liquids in an environmental setting. Such materials can therefore remediate unwanted pollutants from the environment including: immobilisation of oil spills, removal of dyes, extraction of heavy metals or toxic anions, and the detection or removal of chemical weapons. Controlling the interactions between the gel nanofibres and pollutants can lead to selective uptake and extraction. Furthermore, if suitably designed, such materials can be recyclable and environmentally benign, while the responsive and tunable nature of the self-assembled network offers significant advantages over other materials solutions to problems caused by pollution in an environmental setting.

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          Most cited references 152

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          Toxic potential of materials at the nanolevel.

          Nanomaterials are engineered structures with at least one dimension of 100 nanometers or less. These materials are increasingly being used for commercial purposes such as fillers, opacifiers, catalysts, semiconductors, cosmetics, microelectronics, and drug carriers. Materials in this size range may approach the length scale at which some specific physical or chemical interactions with their environment can occur. As a result, their properties differ substantially from those bulk materials of the same composition, allowing them to perform exceptional feats of conductivity, reactivity, and optical sensitivity. Possible undesirable results of these capabilities are harmful interactions with biological systems and the environment, with the potential to generate toxicity. The establishment of principles and test procedures to ensure safe manufacture and use of nanomaterials in the marketplace is urgently required and achievable.
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            Low Molecular Mass Gelators of Organic Liquids and the Properties of Their Gels

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              Supramolecular gels: functions and uses.

              In recent years there has been immense interest in studying gels derived from low molecular mass gelators (supramolecular, or simply molecular gels). The motivation for this is not only to understand the fundamental aggregate structures in the gels at different length scales, but also to explore their potential for futuristic technological applications. Gels have been made sensitive to external stimuli like light and chemical entities by incorporating a spectroscopically active or a receptor unit as part of the gelator molecule. This makes them suitable for applications such as sensing and actuating. The diversity of gel structural architectures has allowed them to be utilized as templates to prepare novel inorganic superstructures for possible applications in catalysis and separation. Gels derived from liquid crystals (anisotropy gels) that can act as dynamically functional materials have been prepared, for example, for (re-writable) information recording. Supramolecular gels can be important in controlled release applications, in oil recovery, for gelling cryogenic fuels etc. They can also serve as media for a range of applications. This tutorial review highlights some of the instructive work done by various groups to develop smart and functional gels, and covers a wide spectrum of scientific interest ranging from medicine to materials science.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                CSRVBR
                Chemical Society Reviews
                Chem. Soc. Rev.
                Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)
                0306-0012
                1460-4744
                2016
                2016
                : 45
                : 15
                : 4226-4251
                Article
                10.1039/C6CS00124F
                27241027
                © 2016
                Product
                Self URI (article page): http://xlink.rsc.org/?DOI=C6CS00124F

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