Toward controllable molecular shuttles

P L Anelli, M Asakawa, P R Ashton, R A Bissell, G Clavier, R Gorski, A E Kaifer, S J Langford, G Mattersteig, S Menzer, D Philp, A M Z Slawin, N Spencer, J F Stoddart, M S Tolley, D J Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

152 Citations (Scopus)


A number of nanometer-scale molecular assemblies, based on rotaxane-type structures, have been synthesized by means of a template-directed strategy from simple building blocks that, on account of the molecular recognition arising from the noncovalent interactions between them, are able to self-assemble into potential molecular abacuses. In all the cases investigated, the pi-electron-deficient tetracationic cyclophane cyclobis(paraquat-p-phenylene) is constrained mechanically around a dumbbell-shaped component consisting of a linear polyether chain intercepted by at least two, if not three, K-electron-rich units and terminated at each end by blocking groups or stoppers. The development of an approach toward constructing these molecular abacuses, in which the tetracationic cyclophane is able to shuttle back and forth with respect to the dumbbell-shaped component, begins with the self-assembly of a [2]rotaxane consisting of two hydroquinone rings symmetrically positioned within a polyether chain terminated by triisopropylsilyl ether blocking groups. In this first so-called molecular shuttle, the tetracationic cyclophane oscillates in a degenerate fashion between the two pi-electron-rich hydroquinone rings. Replacement of one of the hydroquinone rings-or the insertion of another pi-electron-rich ring system between the two hydroquinine rings-introduces the possibility of translational isomerism, a phenomenon that arises because of the different relative positions and populations of the tetracationic cyclophane with respect to the pi-donor sites on the dumbbell-shaped component. In two subsequent [2]rotaxanes, one of the hydroquinone rings in the dumbbell-shaped component is replaced, first by a p-xylyl and then by an indole unit. Finally, a tetrathiafulvalene (TTF) unit is positioned between two hydroquinone rings in the dumbbell-shaped component. Spectroscopic and electrochemical investigations carried out on these first-generation molecular shuttles show that they could be developed as molecular switches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1113-1135
Number of pages23
JournalChemistry - A European Journal
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1997


  • molecular devices
  • nanostructures
  • rotaxanes
  • self-assembly
  • translational isomerism


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