The art and science of self-assembling molecular machines

Marcos Gómez-López*, Jon A. Preece, J. Fraser Stoddart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


In this review, we show how noncovalent bonding interactions between π-electron rich aromatic ring systems (e.g. hydroquinone) and the π-electron deficient tetracationic cyclophane, cyclobis(paraquat-p-phenylene) can be used to self-assemble novel molecular architectures which are not only interesting to us, because of their fascinating topologies, but also because they have the potential to be developed into molecular structures with switchable properties on the nanometre scale. The high efficiency observed in the self-assembly of a [2]catenane, and its dynamic properties in solution, represent the first step in the design and self-assembly of other molecular assemblies better suited for the study of molecular switching processes. Therefore, a series of [2]rotaxanes, mechanically-interlocked molecular compounds, consisting of a linear π-electron rich dumbbell-shaped component and the π-electron deficient tetracationic cyclophane as the cyclic component, have been self-assembled and evaluated. All of the so-called molecular shuttles show translational isomerism and one of them, comprising benzidine and biphenol recognition sites as the non-degenerate π-electron rich sites, shows molecular switching properties when it is perturbed by external stimuli, such as electrons and protons. The versatility of our approach to nanoscale molecular switches is proven by the description of a series of molecular assemblies and supramolecular arrays, consisting of π-electron rich and π-electron deficient components, which display molecular switching properties when they are influenced by external stimuli that are photochemical, electrochemical and/or chemical in nature. However, the molecular switching phenomena take place in the solution state. Therefore, finally we describe how simple molecular structures can be ordered on to a solid support at the macroscopic level using Langmuir-Blodgett techniques. This is a necessary condition which must be fulfilled if we wish to construct supramolecular structures with device-like properties at the macroscopic level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-192
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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