Radical-pairing-induced molecular assembly and motion

Kang Cai*, Long Zhang, R. Dean Astumian*, J. Fraser Stoddart*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Radical-pairing interactions between conjugated organic π-radicals are relative newcomers to the inventory of molecular recognition motifs explored in supramolecular chemistry. The unique electronic, magnetic, optical and redox-responsive properties of the conjugated π-radicals render molecules designed with radical-pairing interactions useful for applications in various areas of chemistry and materials science. In particular, the ability to control formation of radical cationic or anionic species, by redox stimulation, provides a flexible trigger for directed assembly and controlled molecular motions, as well as a convenient means of inputting energy to fuel non-equilibrium processes. In this Review, we provide an overview of different examples of radical-pairing-based recognition processes and of their emerging use in (1) supramolecular assembly, (2) templation of mechanically interlocked molecules, (3) stimuli-controlled molecular switches and, by incorporation of kinetic asymmetry in the design, (4) the creation of unidirectional molecular transporters based on pumping cassettes powered by fuelled switching of radical-pairing interactions. We conclude the discussion with an outlook on future directions for the field. [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-465
Number of pages19
JournalNature Reviews Chemistry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Chemistry


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