Three state redox-active molecular shuttle that switches in solution and on a surface

Giulia Fioravanti, Natalia Haraszkiewicz, Euan Robert Kay, Sandra M. Mendoza, Carlo Bruno, Massimo Marcaccio, Piet G. Wiering, Francesco Paolucci, Petra Rudolf, Albert M. Brouwer, David A. Leigh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Citations (Scopus)


Although the desirability of developing synthetic molecular machine systems that can function on surfaces is widely recognized, to date the only well-characterized examples of electrochemically switchable rotaxane-based molecular shuttles which can do so are based on the tetracationic viologen macrocycle pioneered by Stoddart. Here, we report on a [2]rotaxane which features succinamide and naphthalene diimide hydrogen-bonding stations for a benzylic amide macrocycle that can shuttle and switch its net position both in solution and in a monolayer. Three oxidation states of the naphthalene diimide unit can be accessed electrochemically in solution, each one with a different binding affinity for the macrocycle and, hence, corresponding to a different distribution of the rings between the two stations in the molecular shuttle. Cyclic voltammetry experiments show the switching to be both reversible and cyclable and allow quantification of the translational isomer ratios (thermodynamics) and shuttling dynamics (kinetics) for their interconversion in each state. Overall, the binding affinity of the naphthalene diimide station can be changed by 6 orders of magnitude over the three states. Unlike previous electrochemically active amide-based molecular shuttles, the reduction potential of the naphthalene diimide unit is sufficiently positive (−0.68 V) for the process to be compatible with operation in self-assembled monolayers on gold. Incorporating pyridine units into the macrocycle allowed attachment of the shuttles to an acid-terminated self-assembled monolayer of alkane thiols on gold. The molecular shuttle monolayers were characterized by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and their electrochemical behavior probed by electrochemical impedance spectroscopy and double-potential step chronoamperometry, which demonstrated that the redox-switched shuttling was maintained in this environment, occurring on the millisecond time scale.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2593-2601
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2008


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