Locked synchronous rotor motion in a molecular motor

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Science  02 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6341, pp. 964-968
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam8808

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Coupled motion in a light-activated rotor

Macroscopic motors rely on gears to keep components in synchrony. Štacko et al. demonstrate an analogous type of coupled motion at the molecular scale (see the Perspective by Baroncini and Credi). They constructed a molecular scaffold in which light absorption drives the rotation of upper and lower fragments around a connecting double bond. At the same time, steric constraints modulate the motion of a third component that is tethered to the top of the rotor, so that it continuously exposes the same face to the bottom. The design paves the way toward more complex synchronized motion in an assembly of molecular machines.

Science, this issue p. 964; see also p. 906


Biological molecular motors translate their local directional motion into ordered movement of other parts of the system to empower controlled mechanical functions. The design of analogous geared systems that couple motion in a directional manner, which is pivotal for molecular machinery operating at the nanoscale, remains highly challenging. Here, we report a molecular rotary motor that translates light-driven unidirectional rotary motion to controlled movement of a connected biaryl rotor. Achieving coupled motion of the distinct parts of this multicomponent mechanical system required precise control of multiple kinetic barriers for isomerization and synchronous motion, resulting in sliding and rotation during a full rotary cycle, with the motor always facing the same face of the rotor.

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