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Unidirectional molecular motor on a gold surface


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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Figure 1: Molecular motor anchored to a surface.
Figure 2: CD and UV spectra of 1-Au and 2.
Figure 3: Following two full turns by CD spectroscopy.
Figure 4: Confirmation of unidirectional rotation on the nanoparticle using NMR spectroscopy.


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We thank C. R. van den Brom for performing the TEM measurements described, A. Meetsma for X-ray analysis and J. G. McGarvey for access to Raman facilities. Financial support from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO-CW), the Materials Science Centre, and the University of Groningen is acknowledged. J.V. thanks the Departamento de Educación, Universidades e Investigación del Gobierno Vasco, for a postdoctoral fellowship.

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Correspondence to Ben L. Feringa.

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van Delden, R., ter Wiel, M., Pollard, M. et al. Unidirectional molecular motor on a gold surface. Nature 437, 1337–1340 (2005).

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