Electrochemical Switching of a Fluorescent Molecular Rotor Embedded within a Bistable Rotaxane

Yilei Wu, Marco Frasconi*, Wei Guang Liu, Ryan M. Young, William A. Goddard, Michael R. Wasielewski*, J. Fraser Stoddart*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


We report how the nanoconfined environment, introduced by the mechanical bonds within an electrochemically switchable bistable [2]rotaxane, controls the rotation of a fluorescent molecular rotor, namely, an 8-phenyl-substituted boron dipyrromethene (BODIPY). The electrochemical switching of the bistable [2]rotaxane induces changes in the ground-state coconformation and in the corresponding excited-state properties of the BODIPY rotor. In the starting redox state, when no external potential is applied, the cyclobis(paraquat-p-phenylene) (CBPQT4+) ring component encircles the tetrathiafulvalene (TTF) unit on the dumbbell component, leaving the BODIPY rotor unhindered and exhibiting low fluorescence. Upon oxidation of the TTF unit to a TTF2+ dication, the CBPQT4+ ring is forced toward the molecular rotor, leading to an increased energy barrier for the excited state to rotate the rotor into the state with a high nonradiative rate constant, resulting in an overall 3.4-fold fluorescence enhancement. On the other hand, when the solvent polarity is high enough to stabilize the excited charge-transfer state between the BODIPY rotor and the CBPQT4+ ring, movement of the ring toward the BODIPY rotor produces an unexpectedly strong fluorescence signal decrease as the result of photoinduced electron transfer from the BODIPY rotor to the CBPQT4+ ring. The nanoconfinement effect introduced by mechanical bonding can effectively lead to modulation of the physicochemical properties as observed in this bistable [2]rotaxane. On account of the straightforward synthetic strategy and the facile modulation of switchable electrochromic behavior, our approach could pave the way for the development of new stimuli-responsive materials based on mechanically interlocked molecules for future electro-optical applications, such as sensors, molecular memories, and molecular logic gates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11835-11846
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number27
StatePublished - Jul 8 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Catalysis
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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