Muscle-like Supramolecular Polymers: Integrated Motion from Thousands of Molecular Machines


  • The research leading to these results was funded by the European Research Council under the European Community’s Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC Starting Grant agreement no. 257099 (N.G.). We wish to thank the CNRS, the icFRC, and the University of Strasbourg for financial support, and the Laboratoire Léon Brilloin (LLB, CEA, Saclay, France) for beamtime allocation. This work was also supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR-09-BLAN-034-02) (N.J.), and a doctoral fellowship from the Chinese Scholarship Council (G.D.).


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Pumping iron: Double-threaded rotaxanes can be linked to coordination units and polymerized in the presence of iron or zinc ions. pH modulation triggers cooperative contractions (or extensions) of the individual rotaxanes, thus resulting in an amplified motion of the muscle-like supramolecular chains with changes of their contour lengths of several micrometers (see picture).