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Molecularly Woven Materials
Strength, lightness and non-brittleness are crucial features of some materials used in everyday life. For certain specialized applications, extreme strength is required while lightness and non-brittleness are still desirable. The challenge to combine all these properties into one material is not trivial, since very tough materials are usually heavy and/or brittle. By analogy to macroscopic woven materials, such as textiles and ropes, we believe that materials woven at the molecular level should be the ultimate choice featuring extreme strength while being lightweight and non-brittle. In creating these novel materials, we exploit coordination chemistry and ligand design, using building blocks with intertwined strands that are subsequently “sewn” together on the molecular level.

Functional Supramolecular Architectures

Rotaxanes and catenanes – supramolecules that contain mechanically interlocked components – are the focus of increased attention in recent years due to their potential for being developed into molecular devices and machines. Examples of such rotaxane- or catenane-based devices include molecular shuttles, elevators, muscles, nanovalves, information storage devices and components for molecular electronics such as molecular switches and single-molecule transistors. We are interested in engineering more complex molecular machinery by assembling two or more such devices into discrete supramolecular entities. We are also pursuing the incorporation of rotaxanes into 3-dimensional architectures in order to prepare functional materials with controllable pore sizes and shapes.

Topologically Unusual Molecules

Knotted and interlinked molecules (for example, the molecular analogs of the trefoil knot and the Borromean rings) are an interesting but poorly-studied class of topological molecules. While it is known that biological systems containing DNA and proteins are capable of adopting very complex knotted structures and forming networks of thousands of topologically interlocked circles, only a few and the simplest of such molecules have been synthesized to date. By using inorganic templates, we work on expanding the inventory and the knowledge of new topological molecules, the pentafoil knot and the triply interlocked [2]catenane being the first two targets.