Forces to reckon with: Supramolecular complexes, such as the one shown, are normally based on a combination of different interactions such as ion pairing, hydrogen bonds, and stacking interactions. The not always simple characterization of the nature and strength of intermolecular forces provides assistance to the understanding of biomimetic systems, as well as for the design of synthetic receptors, drugs, and intelligent materials.
Supramolecular chemistry has expanded dramatically in recent years both in terms of potential applications and in its relevance to analogous biological systems. The formation and function of supramolecular complexes occur through a multiplicity of often difficult to differentiate noncovalent forces. The aim of this Review is to describe the crucial interaction mechanisms in context, and thus classify the entire subject. In most cases, organic host–guest complexes have been selected as examples, but biologically relevant problems are also considered. An understanding and quantification of intermolecular interactions is of importance both for the rational planning of new supramolecular systems, including intelligent materials, as well as for developing new biologically active agents.