A mechanical actuator driven electrochemically by artificial molecular muscles

Bala Krishna Juluri, Ajeet S. Kumar, Yi Liu, Tao Ye, Ying Wei Yang, Amar H. Flood, Lei Fang, J. Fraser Stoddart, Paul S. Weiss, Tony Jun Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

208 Scopus citations


A microcantilever, coated with a monolayer of redox-controllable, bistable [3]rotaxane molecules (artificial molecular muscles), undergoes reversible deflections when subjected to alternating oxidizing and reducing electrochemical potentials. The microcantilever devices were prepared by precoating one surface with a gold film and allowing the palindromic [3]rotaxane molecules to adsorb selectively onto one side of the microcantilevers, utilizing thiol gold chemistry. An electrochemical cell was employed in the experiments, and deflections were monitored both as a function of (i) the scan rate (≤20 mV s -1) and (ii) the time for potential step experiments at oxidizing (> +0.4 V) and reducing (< +0.2 V) potentials. The different directions and magnitudes of the deflections for the microcantilevers, which were coated with artificial molecular muscles, were compared with (i) data from nominally bare microcantilevers precoated with gold and (ii) those coated with two types of control compounds, namely, dumbbell molecules to simulate the redox activity of the palindromic bistable [3]rotaxane molecules and inactive 1-dodecanethiol molecules. The comparisons demonstrate that the artificial molecular muscles are responsible for the deflections, which can be repeated over many cycles. The microcantilevers deflect in one direction following oxidation and in the opposite direction upon reduction. The ∼ 550 nm deflections were calculated to be commensurate with forces per molecule of ∼ 650 pN. The thermal relaxation that characterizes the device's deflection is consistent with the double bistability associated with the palindromic [3]rotaxane and reflects a metastable contracted state. The use of the cooperative forces generated by these self-assembled, nanometer-scale artificial molecular muscles that are electrically wired to an external power supply constitutes a seminal step toward molecular-machine-based nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-300
Number of pages10
JournalACS nano
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 24 2009


  • Bistable rotaxanes
  • Electrochemistry
  • Microcantilever
  • Molecular machines
  • NEMS
  • Supramolecular chemistry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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