Pulsating Tubules from Noncovalent Macrocycles

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Science  21 Sep 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6101, pp. 1521-1526
DOI: 10.1126/science.1224741

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Slip-Sliding Apart

One versatile means of synthesizing nanometer-scale cylinders has been to start with ring-shaped molecules that stack on top of each other. Huang et al. (p. 1521; see the Perspective by Zhang and Aida) took this approach a step further by giving the rings a flexible diameter. Specifically, rings were prepared consisting of six v-shaped building blocks with hydrophobic sides that could slide back and forth along one another and thereby expand or contract the pore at the center. The rings spontaneously stacked to form tubes in dilute aqueous solution, and heating induced contraction of the whole tube in a process that was readily reversible on cooling.


Despite recent advances in synthetic nanometer-scale tubular assembly, conferral of dynamic response characteristics to the tubules remains a challenge. Here, we report on supramolecular nanotubules that undergo a reversible contraction-expansion motion accompanied by an inversion of helical chirality. Bent-shaped aromatic amphiphiles self-assemble into hexameric macrocycles in aqueous solution, forming chiral tubules by spontaneous one-dimensional stacking with a mutual rotation in the same direction. The adjacent aromatic segments within the hexameric macrocycles reversibly slide along one another in response to external triggers, resulting in pulsating motions of the tubules accompanied by a chiral inversion. The aromatic interior of the self-assembled tubules encapsulates hydrophobic guests such as carbon-60 (C60). Using a thermal trigger, we could regulate the C60-C60 interactions through the pulsating motion of the tubules.

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