Self-Assembly of Nano- to Macroscopic Metal–Phenolic Materials

The self-assembly of molecular building blocks into well-defined macroscopic materials is desirable for developing emergent functional materials. However, the self-assembly of molecules into macroscopic materials remains challenging, in part because of limitations in controlling the growth and robustness of the materials. Herein, we report the molecular self-assembly of nano- to macroscopic free-standing materials through the coordination of metals with natural phenolic molecules. Our method involves a simple and scalable solution-based template dipping process in precomplexed metal–phenolic solutions, enabling the fabrication of free-standing macroscopic materials of customized architectures (2D and 3D geometries), thickness (about 10 nm to 5 μm), and chemical composition (different metals and phenolic ligands). Our macroscopic free-standing materials can be physically folded and unfolded like origami, yet are selectively degradable. Furthermore, metal nanoparticles can be grown in the macroscopic free-standing films, indicating their potential for future applications in biotechnology and catalysis.