Template-directed synthesis of multiply mechanically interlocked molecules under thermodynamic control

Fabio Aricó, Theresa Chang, Stuart J. Cantrill, Saeed I. Khan, J. Fraser Stoddart*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


The template-directed construction of crown-ether-like macrocycles around secondary dialkylammonium ions (R2NH2+) has been utilized for the expedient (one-pot) and high-yielding synthesis of a diverse range of mechanically interlocked molecules. The clipping together of appropriately designed dialdehyde and diamine compounds around R 2NH2+-containing dumbbell-shaped components proceeds through the formation, under thermodynamic control, of imine bonds. The reversible nature of this particular reaction confers the benefits of "error-checking" and "proof-reading", which one usually associates with supramolecular chemistry and strict self-assembly processes, upon these wholly molecular systems. Furthermore, these dynamic covalent syntheses exploit the efficient templating effects that the R2NH 2+ ions exert on the macrocyclization of the matched dialdehyde and diamine fragments, resulting not only in rapid rates of reaction, but also affording near-quantitative conversion of starting materials into the desired interlocked products. Once assembled, these "dynamic" interlocked compounds can be "fixed" upon reduction of the reversible imine bonds (by using BH3·THF) to give kinetically stable species, a procedure that can be performed in the same reaction vessel as the inital thermodynamically controlled assembly. Isolation and purification of the mechanically interlocked products formed by using this protocol is relatively facile, as no column chromatography is required. Herein, we present the synthesis and characterization of 1) a [2]rotaxane, 2) a [3]rotaxane, 3) a branched [4]rotaxane, 4) a bis [2]rotaxane, and 5) a novel cyclic [4]rotaxane, demonstrating, in incrementally more complex systems, the efficacy of this one-pot strategy for the construction of interlocked molecules.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4655-4666
Number of pages12
JournalChemistry - A European Journal
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 5 2005


  • Dynamic covalent chemistry
  • Imine formation
  • Molecular recognition
  • Noncovalent interactions
  • Reductive amination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Organic Chemistry


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