"Molecular flasks" are well-defined supramolecular cages that can encapsulate one or more molecular guests within their cavities and, in so doing, change the physical properties and reactivities of the guests. Although molecular flasks are powerful tools for manipulating matter on the nanoscale, most of them are limited in their scope because of size restrictions. Recently, however, increasingly large and diverse supramolecular cages have become available with enough space in their cavities for larger chemical systems such as polymers, nanoparticles, and biomolecules. Here we report how a class of metallosupramolecular cages known as M12L24 polyhedra have been adapted to serve as nanometer-scale containers for solutions of a pseudorotaxane host-guest complex based on a tetracationic cyclophane host, cyclobis(paraquat-p-phenylene) (CBPQT4+), and a 1,5-dioxynaphthalene (DNP) guest. Remarkably, the hierarchical integration of pseudorotaxanes and M12L24 superhosts causes the system to express stimulus-responsive behavior, a property which can be described as emergent because neither the DNP⊂CBPQT4+ nor the M12L 24 assemblies exhibit this behavior independently. The DNP-containing M12L24 molecular flasks are effectively "sealed off" to CBPQT4+ until ions are added as a stimulus to "open" them. The electrolyte stimulus reduces the electrostatic screening distance in solution, allowing favorable DNP⊂CBPQT4+ host-guest interactions to overcome repulsive Coulombic interactions between the cationic M12L24 cages and CBPQT4+ rings. This unusual example of ion-gated transport into chemical nanocontainers is reminiscent of transmembrane ion channels which act as gates to the cell, with the important difference that this system is reversible and operates at equilibrium.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry