Fashioned through billions of years of evolution, biological molecular machines, such as ATP synthase, myosin, and kinesin, use the intricate relative motions of their components to drive some of life's most essential processes. Having control over the motions in molecules is imperative for life to function, and many chemists have designed, synthesized, and investigated artificial molecular systems that also express controllable motions within molecules. Using bistable mechanically interlocked molecules (MIMs), based on donor-acceptor recognition motifs, we have sought to imitate the sophisticated nanoscale machines present in living systems. In this Account, we analyze the thermodynamic characteristics of a series of redox-switchable rotaxanes and catenanes. Control and understanding of the relative intramolecular movements of components in MIMs have been vital in the development of a variety of applications of these compounds ranging from molecular electronic devices to drug delivery systems.These bistable donor-acceptor MIMs undergo redox-activated switching between two isomeric states. Under ambient conditions, the dominant translational isomer, the ground-state coconformation (GSCC), is in equilibrium with the less favored translational isomer, the metastable-state coconformation (MSCC). By manipulating the redox state of the recognition site associated with the GSCC, we can stimulate the relative movements of the components in these bistable MIMs.The thermodynamic parameters of model host-guest complexes provide a good starting point to rationalize the ratio of GSCC to MSCC at equilibrium. The bistable rotaxanes show a strong correlation between the relative free energies of model complexes and the ground-state distribution constants (K GS). This relationship does not always hold for bistable catenanes, most likely because of the additional steric and electronic constraints present when the two rings are mechanically interlocked with each other. Measuring the ground-state distribution constants of bistable MIMs presents its own set of challenges. While it is possible, in principle, to determine these constants using NMR and UV-vis spectroscopies, these methods lack the sensitivity to permit the determination of ratios of translational isomers greater than 10:1 with sufficient accuracy and precision. A simple application of the Nernst equation, in combination with variable scan-rate cyclic voltammetry, however, allows the direct measurement of ground-state distribution constants across a wide range (KGS = 10-104) of values.
ASJC Scopus subject areas