Unidirectional molecular motor on a gold surface.

Research paper by Richard A RA van Delden, Matthijs K J MK ter Wiel, Michael M MM Pollard, Javier J Vicario, Nagatoshi N Koumura, Ben L BL Feringa

Published on: 28 Oct '05Published in: Nature


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 attention. Such molecular motors convert light or chemical energy into directional rotary or linear motion, 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 muscle. Surface-mounted rotors have been realized and limited directionality in their motion predicted. Here we demonstrate that a light-driven molecular motor capable of repetitive unidirectional rotation can be mounted on the surface of gold nanoparticles. The motor design 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 degrees rotation of the propeller with respect to the surface-mounted lower half of the system.