Emergent behavior in nanoconfined molecular containers

Wenqi Liu, J. Fraser Stoddart*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


The expression of biological functions, such as enzyme catalysis, immune response, and cargo transport in confined nanospaces, with very different physical and chemical environments from those in bulk solution, is of crucial importance to living systems. The construction of artificial nanoconfined containers, employing molecular engineering, has become a major focus of many molecular scientists in recent times. These molecular containers—with stereochemically well-defined three-dimensional structures—have proved to be powerful platforms in which to build confined nanospaces. The synthetic flexibility provided by molecular containers gives us the opportunity to tune cavity sizes, geometries, and stereoelectronic landscapes, providing versatile binding pockets tailored to match prescribed properties and functions. With the objective of highlighting the emergent properties of smart materials, housed in confined nanospaces, this review highlights examples of molecular containers with preordained binding pockets and focuses on cavity-enabled functions, such as selective capture, controlled release, and efficient catalysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)919-947
Number of pages29
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 8 2021


  • SDG3: Good health and well-being
  • SDG7: Affordable and clean energy
  • catalysis
  • host-guest chemistry
  • molecular nanospaces
  • molecular receptors
  • molecular recognition
  • porous materials
  • separation science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Biochemistry, medical
  • Materials Chemistry


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