Evolution can increase the complexity of matter by self-organization into helical architectures, the best example being the DNA double helix. One common aspect, apparently shared by most of these architectures, is the presence of covalent bonds within the helix backbone. Here, we report the unprecedented crystal structures of a metal complex that self-organizes into a continuous double helical structure, assembled by non-covalent building blocks. Built up solely by weak stacking interactions, this alternating tread stairs-like double helical assembly mimics the DNA double helix structure. Starting from a racemic mixture in aqueous solution, the ruthenium(II) polypyridyl complex forms two polymorphic structures of a left-handed double helical assembly of only the Λ-enantiomer. The stacking of the helices is different in both polymorphs: a crossed woodpile structure versus a parallel columnar stacking.
Van Hecke, K., Cardinaels, T., Nockemann, P., Jacobs, J., Vanpraet, L., Parac-Vogt, T. N., Van Deun, R., Binnemans, K., & Van Meervelt, L. (2014). Enantioselective Assembly of a Ruthenium(II) Polypyridyl Complex into a Double Helix. Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English), 8959-8962. https://doi.org/10.1002/anie.201404496