Progress toward a Rationally Designed, Chemically Powered Rotary Molecular Motor

T.R. Kelly, XL Cai, F. Damkaci, S.B. Panicker, B. Tu, S.M. Bushell, I. Cornella, Matthew Piggott, R. Salives, M. Cavero, YJ Zhao, S. Jasmin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Citations (Scopus)


Building on prototype 1, which achieves 120° of phosgene-powered unidirectional rotation to rotamer 6 (see Figure 5 in the full article), 7 was designed to accomplish repeated unidirectional rotation (see Scheme 7). Compound 7 contains an amino group on each blade of the triptycene and a 4-(dimethylamino)pyridine (DMAP) unit to selectively deliver phosgene (or its equivalent) to the amine in the “firing position”. The synthesis of 7 is described: the key constructive steps are a benzyne addition to an anthracene to generate the triptycene, a stilbene photocyclization to construct the helicene, and a Stille coupling to incorporate the DMAP unit. The DMAP unit was shown to regioselectively relay 1,1‘-carbonyldiimidazole (but not phosgene) to the proximal amino group, as designed, but rotation of the triptycene does not occur. Extensive attempts to troubleshoot the problem led to the conclusion that the requisite intramolecular urethane formation, as demonstrated in the prototype (1 → 4), does not occur with 7 (to give 85) or 97 (to give 100). We speculate that either (i) hydrogen bonding between the hydroxypropyl group and functionality present in 7 but absent from 1 or (ii) a Bürgi−Dunitz (or similar) interaction involving the DMAP (see 106) prevents achievement of a conformation conducive to intramolecular urethane formation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)376-386
JournalJournal of American Chemical Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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