A new class of polymeric thermometers with a memory function is reported that is based on the supramolecular host–guest interactions of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAM) with side-chain naphthalene guest moieties and the tetracationic macrocycle cyclobis(paraquat-p-phenylene) (CBPQT4+) as the host. This supramolecular thermometer exhibits a memory function for the thermal history of the solution, which arises from the large hysteresis of the thermoresponsive LCST phase transition (LCST=lower critical solution temperature). This hysteresis is based on the formation of a metastable soluble state that consists of the PNIPAM–CBPQT4+ host–guest complex. When heated above the transition temperature, the polymer collapses, and the host–guest interactions are disrupted, making the polymer more hydrophobic and less soluble in water. Aside from providing fundamental insights into the kinetic control of supramolecular assemblies, the developed thermometer with a memory function might find use in applications spanning the physical and biological sciences.
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