Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Twisted switches

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:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht ‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie

nachricht Calcium Induces Chronic Lung Infections
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>