Third-Generation Light-Driven Symmetric Molecular Motors

Jos C.M. Kistemaker, Peter Štacko, Diederik Roke, Alexander T. Wolters, Henrieke Heideman, Mu-Chieh Chang, Pieter Van der Meulen, Johan Visser, Edwin Otten, Ben L. Feringa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Symmetric molecular motors based on two overcrowded alkenes with a notable absence of a stereogenic center show potential to function as novel mechanical systems in the development of more advanced nanomachines offering controlled motion over surfaces. Elucidation of the key parameters and limitations of these third-generation motors is essential for the design of optimized molecular machines based on light-driven rotary motion. Herein we demonstrate the thermal and photochemical rotational behavior of a series of third-generation light-driven molecular motors. The steric hindrance of the core unit exerted upon the rotors proved pivotal in controlling the speed of rotation, where a smaller size results in lower barriers. The presence of a pseudo-asymmetric carbon center provides the motor with unidirectionality. Tuning of the steric effects of the substituents at the bridgehead allows for the precise control of the direction of disrotary motion, illustrated by the design of two motors which show opposite rotation with respect to a methyl substituent. A third-generation molecular motor with the potential to be the fastest based on overcrowded alkenes to date was used to visualize the equal rate of rotation of both its rotor units. The autonomous rotational behavior perfectly followed the predicted model, setting the stage for more advanced motors for functional dynamic systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9650 - 9661
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number28
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • molecular motors
  • light-driven


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