• molecular devices;
  • rotaxanes;
  • supramolecular chemistry


High-yield, straightforward synthesis of two- and three-station [2]rotaxane molecular machines based on an anilinium, a triazolium, and a mono- or disubstituted pyridinium amide station is reported. In the case of the pH-sensitive two-station molecular machines, large-amplitude movement of the macrocycle occurred. However, the presence of an intermediate third station led, after deprotonation of the anilinium station, and depending on the substitution of the pyridinium amide, either to exclusive localization of the macrocycle around the triazolium station or to oscillatory shuttling of the macrocycle between the triazolium and monosubstituted pyridinium amide station. Variable-temperature 1H NMR investigation of the oscillating system was performed in CD2Cl2. The exchange between the two stations proved to be fast on the NMR timescale for all considered temperatures (298–193 K). Interestingly, decreasing the temperature displaced the equilibrium between the two translational isomers until a unique location of the macrocycle around the monosubstituted pyridinium amide station was reached. Thermodynamic constants K were evaluated at each temperature: the thermodynamic parameters ΔH and ΔS were extracted from a Van′t Hoff plot, and provided the Gibbs energy ΔG. Arrhenius and Eyring plots afforded kinetic parameters, namely, energies of activation Ea, enthalpies of activation ΔH, and entropies of activation ΔS. The ΔG values deduced from kinetic parameters match very well with the ΔG values determined from thermodynamic parameters. In addition, whereas signal coalescence of pyridinium hydrogen atoms located next to the amide bond was observed at 205 K in the oscillating rotaxane and at 203 K in the two-station rotaxane with a unique location of the macrocycle around the pyridinium amide, no separation of 1H NMR signals of the considered hydrogen atoms was seen in the corresponding nonencapsulated thread. It is suggested that the macrocycle acts as a molecular brake for the rotation of the pyridinium–amide bond when it interacts by hydrogen bonding with both the amide NH and the pyridinium hydrogen atoms at the same time.