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Single crystals of mechanically entwined helical covalent polymers.


Double helical conformation of polymer chains is widely observed in biomacromolecules and plays an essential role in exerting their biological functions, such as molecular recognition and information storage. It has remained challenging, however, to prepare synthetic helical polymers, and those that exist have mainly been limited to single-stranded polymers or short oligomeric double helices. Here, we report the synthesis of covalent helical polymers, with a high molecular weight, from the achiral monomer hexahydroxytriphenylene through to spiroborate formation. Polymerization and crystallization occurred simultaneously under solvothermal conditions to form single crystals of the resulting helical covalent polymers. Characterization by single-crystal X-ray diffraction showed that each crystal consisted of pairs of mechanically entwined polymers. No strong non-covalent interactions were observed between the two helical polymers that formed a pair; instead, each strand interacted with neighbouring pairs through hydrogen bonding. Each individual crystal was made up of helical polymers of the same handedness, but the crystallization process produced a racemic conglomerate, with equal amounts of right-handed and left-handed crystals.

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