Nature 437, 1337-1340 (27 October 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature04127; Received 12 July 2005; Accepted 2 August 2005

Unidirectional molecular motor on a gold surface

Richard A. van Delden1, Matthijs K. J. ter Wiel1, Michael M. Pollard1, Javier Vicario1, Nagatoshi Koumura1 & Ben L. Feringa1

  1. Department of Organic Chemistry, Stratingh Institute, University of Groningen, Nijenborgh 4, 9747 AG Groningen, The Netherlands

Correspondence to: Ben L. Feringa1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to B.L.F. (Email: B.L.Feringa@rug.nl).

Molecules capable of mimicking the function of a wide range of mechanical devices have been fabricated, with motors that can induce mechanical movement attracting particular attention1, 2. Such molecular motors convert light or chemical energy into directional rotary or linear motion2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and are usually prepared and operated in solution. But if they are to be used as nanomachines that can do useful work, it seems essential to construct systems that can function on a surface, like a recently reported linear artificial muscle11. Surface-mounted rotors have been realized and limited directionality in their motion predicted12, 13. Here we demonstrate that a light-driven molecular motor capable of repetitive unidirectional rotation14 can be mounted on the surface of gold nanoparticles. The motor design14 uses a chiral helical alkene with an upper half that serves as a propeller and is connected through a carbon–carbon double bond (the rotation axis) to a lower half that serves as a stator. The stator carries two thiol-functionalized 'legs', which then bind the entire motor molecule to a gold surface. NMR spectroscopy reveals that two photo-induced cis-trans isomerizations of the central double bond, each followed by a thermal helix inversion to prevent reverse rotation, induce a full and unidirectional 360° rotation of the propeller with respect to the surface-mounted lower half of the system.


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