Molecular Machine Wrap | March 7, 2011 Issue - Vol. 89 Issue 10 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 89 Issue 10 | p. 42 | Concentrates
Issue Date: March 7, 2011

Molecular Machine Wrap

A helical molecule that can wrap and unwrap itself around a dumbbell-shaped molecule functions as a molecular shuttle
Department: Science & Technology
Keywords: molecular shuttle, helix, supramolecular, rotaxane
This molecular shuttle is built from an oligomeric aromatic amide helix wound around a dumbbell-shaped hydrocarbon chain.
Credit: Ivan Huc
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This molecular shuttle is built from an oligomeric aromatic amide helix wound around a dumbbell-shaped hydrocarbon chain.
Credit: Ivan Huc

Taking a new twist on molecular machines, an international team of chemists has created a molecular shuttle by wrapping a helical molecule around a dumbbell-shaped molecule (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1200143). The resulting assembly is akin to a rotaxane—a pair of mechanically interlocked molecules in which a dumbbell-shaped molecule is threaded through a macrocycle. But in the case of the new shuttle, the helix can unwind itself from the dumbbell. Project leaders Hua Jiang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Ivan Huc of France’s University of Bordeaux were inspired to build the device by the dynamic behavior of biological molecular machines, which slowly assemble and disassemble but rapidly do work when all their components are in place. In Jiang and Huc’s molecular shuttle, an oligomeric aromatic amide—a molecular tape—forms a helix around a hydrocarbon rod equipped with bulky substituents at each end and carbonyl anchor points for hydrogen bonding. Although winding and unwinding of the helix is slow, once in place the helix quickly shuttles up and down the rod between different hydrogen-bonding sites. “This modular design and dynamic assembly open up promising capabilities in molecular machinery,” the researchers note.

 
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