Autonomous artificial nanomotor powered by sunlight

Vincenzo Balzani*, Miguel Clemente-León, Alberto Credi, Belén Ferrer, Margherita Venturi, Amar H. Flood, J. Fraser Stoddart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

416 Scopus citations


Light excitation powers the reversible shuttling movement of the ring component of a rotaxane between two stations located at a 1.3-nm distance on its dumbbell-shaped component. The photoinduced shuttling movement, which occurs in solution, is based on a "four-stroke" synchronized sequence of electronic and nuclear processes. At room temperature the deactivation time of the high-energy charge-transfer state obtained by light excitation is ≈10 μ, and the time period required for the ring-displacement process is on the order of 100 μs. The rotaxane behaves as an autonomous linear motor and operates with a quantum efficiency up to ≈12%. The investigated system is a unique example of an artificial linear nanomotor because it gathers together the following features: (i) it is powered by visible light (e.g., sunlight); (iii) it exhibits autonomous behavior, like motor proteins; (iii) it does not generate waste products; (iv) its operation can rely only on intramolecular processes, allowing in principle operation at the single-molecule level; (v) it can be driven at a frequency of 1 kHz; (vi) it works in mild environmental conditions (i.e., fluid solution at ambient temperature); and (vii) it is stable for at least 103 cycles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1178-1183
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 31 2006


  • Molecular machine
  • Nanoscience
  • Photochemistry
  • Rotaxane
  • Supramolecular chemistry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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