Published on: 25 Jan '06Published in: PNAS
Light excitation powers the reversible shuttling movement of the ring component of a rotaxane between two stations located at a 1.3-nm distance on its dumbbell-shaped component. The photoinduced shuttling movement, which occurs in solution, is based on a "four-stroke" synchronized sequence of electronic and nuclear processes. At room temperature the deactivation time of the high-energy charge-transfer state obtained by light excitation is approximately 10 micros, and the time period required for the ring-displacement process is on the order of 100 micros. The rotaxane behaves as an autonomous linear motor and operates with a quantum efficiency up to approximately 12%. The investigated system is a unique example of an artificial linear nanomotor because it gathers together the following features: (i) it is powered by visible light (e.g., sunlight); (ii) it exhibits autonomous behavior, like motor proteins; (iii) it does not generate waste products; (iv) its operation can rely only on intramolecular processes, allowing in principle operation at the single-molecule level; (v) it can be driven at a frequency of 1 kHz; (vi) it works in mild environmental conditions (i.e., fluid solution at ambient temperature); and (vii) it is stable for at least 10(3) cycles.