Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Twisted switches

24.01.2011
Helical molecules that contract reversibly when oxidized pave the way to new single-molecule electrochemical switches

The degree of twisting of natural helical structures, such as the DNA double-helix, plays an essential role in many important biological functions. Because of their twisted architecture, artificial helices can facilitate the separation and the synthesis of chiral compounds—asymmetric molecules that cannot be superimposed with their mirror image.

New, small spring-like polymer chains, or oligomers, from organic compounds called o-phenylenes have been created by Eisuke Ohta, Takanori Fukushima, Takuzo Aida and colleagues at RIKEN Advanced Science Institute in Wako [1]. These oligomers consist of benzene rings that connect to each other at a sharp angle, leading to their helical structure. The team’s oligomers can change shape and become more rigid when subjected to an electrochemical signal (Fig. 1). They could soon serve as single-molecule machines for application in molecular computers.

Many researchers have investigated molecules that alter their features such as color, luminescence and mode of aggregation when exposed to external stimuli. However, the stimuli-induced change in rigidity demonstrated by the RIKEN team is unprecedented and may open the door to new types of molecular switches.

The researchers synthesized the o-phenylene oligomers using an iterative approach, which allowed them to gradually incorporate electrochemically sensitive units to the oligomer’s backbone.

Ohta explains that while trying to generate the longest o-phenylene oligomers ever synthesized, they noticed that the oligomers possessed highly condensed electron clouds and exhibited a significant reversible difference in rigidity upon removal of one electron during oxidation reactions.

The helical configuration easily causes cyclization—the formation of non-helical structures— which makes the synthesis and investigation of open oligomer chains difficult. The researchers overcame this hurdle by replacing hydrogen atoms positioned at the extremities of the oligomers with so-called ‘nitro functional groups’. Moreover, the octamer, which consists of eight o-phenylene units, was essential for extending the helices while preventing the cyclization, providing long oligomers of up to 48 o-phenylenes.

While purifying their products, the researchers discovered that the nitro-bearing octamer underwent a ‘chiral symmetry-breaking process’, which produced crystals that contained helices with either a left- or right-handed twist. Furthermore, the helices rapidly switched handedness in solution. However, during oxidation these structures contracted, which slowed the switching process between the two chiral states, enhancing their lifetime. These long-lived states resemble 0 and 1 in binary code, making them attractive for optical memory storage.

The researchers are currently examining the chemical and physical properties of these oligomers, which remain unexplored to date. “We want to unveil these properties now,” says Ohta.

The corresponding author for this highlight is based at the Functional Soft Matter Research Group, RIKEN Advanced Science Institute.

Journal information

[1] Ohta, E., Sato, H., Ando, S., Kosaka, A., Fukushima, T., Hashizume, D., Yamasaki, M., Hasegawa, K., Muraoka, A., Ushiyama, H., Yamashita, K. & Aida, T. Redox-responsive molecular helices with highly condensed ð-clouds. Nature Chemistry 3, 68–73 (2011).

gro-pr | Research asia research news
Further information:
http://www.riken.jp
http://www.researchsea.com

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
18.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>