Angewandte Chemie International Edition

Cover image for Vol. 55 Issue 27

Editor: Peter Gölitz, Deputy Editors: Neville Compton, Haymo Ross

Online ISSN: 1521-3773

Associated Title(s): Angewandte Chemie, Chemistry - A European Journal, Chemistry – An Asian Journal, ChemistryOpen, ChemPlusChem, Zeitschrift für Chemie

For full article and contact information, see Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2000, 39 (7), 1295 - 1298

A Molecular Hermaphrodite

A new "component"
for "molecular motors"?

Technological components are often designated as being "female" (eyelet, nut) and "male" (rod, bolt). Molecules with comparable structures can, by analogy, be viewed as "male" and "female" as well. Molecules with both a "male" and a "female" end are called hermaphrodite, or hybrid.

Such a hybrid molecule has been synthesized in the Strasbourg laboratory of Jean-Pierre Sauvage, M. Consuelo Jiménez, Christiane Dietrich-Buchecker and André De Cian. The molecule consists of an eyelet and a rod-shaped piece. Two of these molecules will dimerize by threading the rod-shaped portion of each through the eyelet of the other.

Couplings of such hybrid molecules could previously not be stabilized in solution. "Our trick: two copper ions join the molecules. Each copper ion holds one molecule’s rod in the other molecule’s eyelet. In this way, the ions stabilize the dimer in the solid state as well as in solution," explains Sauvage.

He predicts these molecules to have important applications in the field of nanotechnology. Like ordinary motors, "nano-motors" also need components that convert energy into controlled motion. "Our new dimer could be an important part of one-dimensional structures that are capable of stretching and contracting in response to an external signal," hopes Sauvage.

The first interesting results are expected in the fields of computer and sensor technology. Visions for the future of nanotechnology go even further. The model is nature, which builds up proteins piece by piece according to a molecular template, with the help of enzymes and other molecular structures. The dream for the future: molecular machines that flawlessly build a product atom by atom could be developed in an analogous manner.