Simple mechanical molecular and supramolecular machines: Photochemical and electrochemical control of switching processes

Peter R. Ashton, Roberto Ballardini, Vincenzo Balzani, Sue E. Boyd, Alberto Credi, Maria T. Gandolfi, Marcos Gómez-López, Sayeedha Iqbal, Douglas Philp, Jon A. Preece, Luca Prodi, Howard G. Ricketts, J. Fraser Stoddart*, Malcolm S. Tolley, Margherita Venturi, Andrew J P White, David J. Williams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

211 Scopus citations


Photochemical control of a self-assembled supramolecular 1:1 pseudorotaxane (formed between a tetracationic cyclophane, namely the tetrachloride salt of cyclobis(paraquat-p-phenylene), and 1,5-bis[2-(2-(2-hydroxy)ethoxy)ethoxy]naphthalene has been achieved in aqueous solution. The photochemical one-electron reduction of the cyclophane to the radical trication weakens the noncovalent bonding interactions between the cyclophane and the naphthalene guest -π · π interactions between the π-electron-rich and π-electron-poor aromatic systems, and hydrogen-bonding interactions between the acidic α-bipyridinium hydrogen atoms of the cyclophane and the polyether oxygen atoms of the naphthalene derivative sufficiently to allow the guest to dethread from the cavity; the process can be monitored by the appearance of naphthalene fluorescence. The radical tricationic cyclophane can be oxidized back to the tetracation in the dark by allowing oxygen gas into the system. This reversible process is marked by the disappearance of naphthalene flourescence as the molecule is recomplexed by the tetracationic cyclophane. This supramolecular system can be chemically modified such that the π-electron-rich unit, either a naphthalene derivative or a hydroquinone ring, and the tetracationic cyclophane are covalently linked. We have demonstrated that the π-electron-rich residue in this system is totally 'self-complexed' by the cyclophane to which it is covalently attached. Additionally, the self-complexation can be switched 'off' and 'on' by electrochemical two-electron reductions and oxidations, respectively, of the tetracationic cyclophane component. Thus, we have achieved the construction of two switches at the nanoscale level, one driven by photons and the other by electrons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-170
Number of pages19
JournalChemistry - A European Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997


  • luminescence
  • photochemistry
  • redox chemistry
  • self-assembly
  • self-complexation
  • template syntheses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Organic Chemistry


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