A redox-driven multicomponent molecular shuttle

Sourav Saha, Amar H. Flood, J. Fraser Stoddart*, Stefania Impellizzeri, Serena Silvi, Margherita Venturi, Alberto Credi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

159 Scopus citations


A multicomponent [2]rotaxane designed to operate as a molecular shuttle driven by light energy has been constructed, and its properties have been investigated. The system is composed of (1) a light-fueled power station, capable of using the photon energy to create a charge-separated state, and (2) a mechanical switch, capable of utilizing such a photochemically generated driving force to bring about controllable molecular shuttling motions. The light-fueled power station is, in turn, a dyad comprising (i) a μ-electron-accepting fullerene (C60) component and (ii) a light-harvesting porphyrin (P) unit which acts as an electron donor in the excited state. The mechanical switch is a redox-active bistable [2]rotaxane moiety that consists of (i) a tetrathiafulvalene (TTF) unit as an efficient π-electron-donor station, (ii) a dioxynaphthalene (DNP) unit as a second π-electron-rich station, and (iii) a tetracationic cyclobis(paraquat-p- phenylene) (CBPQT4+) π-electron-acceptor cyclophane, which encapsulates the better π-electron-donating TTF station. Diethylene glycol spacers were conveniently introduced between the electroactive components in the dumbbell-shaped thread to facilitate the template-directed synthesis of the [2]rotaxane. A modular synthetic approach was undertaken for the overall synthesis of this multicomponent bistable [2]rotaxane, beginning with the syntheses of the P-C60 dyad unit and the two-station TTF-DNP-based [2]rotaxane separately, using conventional synthetic methodologies. These two components were finally stitched together by an esterification to afford the target rotaxane. Its structure was characterized by 1H NMR spectroscopy and mass spectrometry as well as by UV-vis-NIR absorption spectroscopy and voltammetry. The observations reflect remarkable electronic interactions between the various units, pointing to the existence of folded conformations in solution. The redox-driven shuttling process of the CBPQT 4+ ring between the two competitive electron-rich recognition units, namely, TTF and DNP, was investigated by electrochemistry and spectroelectrochemistry as a means to verify its operational behavior prior to the photophysical studies related to light-driven operation. The oxidation process of the TTF unit is dramatically hampered in the rotaxane, thereby reducing the efficiency of the shuttling motion. These results confirm that, as the structural complexity increases, the overall function of the system no longer depends simply on its "primary" structure but also on higher-level effects which are reminiscent of the secondary and tertiary structures of biomolecules.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12159-12171
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number40
StatePublished - Oct 10 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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