In this critical review, we discuss switching of the light-powered bistable rotaxanes and catenanes and highlight the practical applications of some of these systems. Photoactive molecular and supramolecular machines are comprised of two parts—1) a switching element, based on noncovalent interactions within the recognition units, which is responsible for executing mechanical movement, and 2) a light-harvesting unit which utilizes light to control the competitive interactions between the recognition sites. We also survey another class of molecular devices, namely molecular rotary motors—i.e., those that behave like their macroscopic counterparts—in which photochemically and thermally induced mechanical movement relies on isomerizations of a pivotal C=C bond, leading to a rotation of the top propeller part with respect to the stationary bottom part of the helical shaped chiral molecule. (146 references.).
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