Professor Jean-Marie Lehn (Nobel laureate)

ISIS, Université de Strasbourg, France


Perspectives in Chemistry:

Molecular – Supramolecular – Adaptive Chemistry

Jean-Marie Lehn

ISIS, Université de Strasbourg, France


Molecular chemistry has developed a wide range of very powerful procedures for mastering the organisation of matter and building ever more complex molecules from atoms linked by covalent bonds.

Supramolecular chemistry lies beyond molecular chemistry. It aims at setting up highly complex chemical systems from molecular components held together by non-covalent intermolecular forces and effecting molecular recognition, catalysis and transport processes, on the basis of the molecular information stored in the covalent framework of the components.

A further step consists in the design of systems undergoing self-organization, i.e. systems capable of spontaneously generating well-defined functional supramolecular architectures by self-assembly from their components, thus behaving as programmed chemical systems. Chemistry may therefore also be considered as an information science, the science of informed matter.

Supramolecular chemistry is intrinsically a dynamic chemistry in view of the lability of the interactions connecting the molecular components of a supramolecular entity and the resulting ability of supramolecular species to exchange their components. These features may be extended to molecular chemistry when the molecular entity contains covalent bonds that may form and break reversibility, so as to allow a continuous change in constitution by reorganization and exchange of building blocks. These features define a Constitutional Dynamic Chemistry (CDC) covering both the molecular and supramolecular levels.

CDC introduces a paradigm shift with respect to constitutionally static chemistry. It 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.

The implementation of these concepts points to the emergence of adaptive and evolutive chemistry.



Lehn, J.-M., Supramolecular Chemistry: Concepts and Perspectives, VCH Weinheim, 1995.

Lehn, J.-M., From supramolecular chemistry towards constitutional dynamic chemistry and adaptive chemistry, Chem. Soc. Rev., 2007, 36, 151.

Lehn, J.-M., Chapter 1, in Constitutional 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.