Energetics of small molecule and water complexation in hydrophobic calixarene cavities

Justin M. Notestein, Alexander Katz*, Enrique Iglesia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Calixarenes grafted on silica are energetically uniform hosts that bind aromatic guests with 1:1 stoichiometry, as shown by binding energies that depend upon the calixarene upper rim composition but not on their grafted surface density (0.02-0.23 nm -2). These materials are unique in maintaining a hydrophilic silica surface, as probed by H 2O physisorption measurements, while possessing a high density of hydrophobic binding sites that are orthogonal to the silica surface below them. The covalently enforced cone-shaped cavities and complete accessibility of these rigidly grafted calixarenes allow the first unambiguous measurements of the thermodynamics of guest interaction with the same calixarene cavities in aqueous solution and vapor phase. Similar to adsorption into nonpolar protein cavities, adsorption into these hydrophobic cavities from aqueous solution is enthalpy-driven, which is in contrast to entropy-driven adsorption into water-soluble hydrophobic hosts such as β cyclodextrin. The adsorption thermodynamics of several substituted aromatics from vapor and liquid are compared by (i) describing guest chemical potentials relative to pure guest, which removes differences among guests because of aqueous solvation and van der Waals contacts in the pure condensed phase, and (ii) passivating residual guest binding sites on exposed silica, titrated by water during adsorption from aqueous solution, using inorganic salts before vapor adsorption. Adsorption isotherms depend only upon the saturation vapor pressure of each guest, indicating that guest binding from aqueous or vapor media is controlled by van der Waals contacts with hydrophobic calixarene cavities acting as covalently assembled condensation nuclei, without apparent contributions from CH-π or other directional interactions. These data also provide the first direct quantification of free energies for interactions of water with the calixarene cavity interior. The calixarene-water interface is stabilized by ∼20 kJ/mol relative to the water-vapor interface, indicating that water significantly competes with the aromatic guests for adsorption at these ostensibly hydrophobic cavities. This result is useful for understanding models of water interactions with other concave hydrophobic surfaces, including those commonly observed within proteins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4004-4014
Number of pages11
Issue number9
StatePublished - Apr 25 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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