Stepwise Operation of a Molecular Rotary Motor Driven by an Appel Reaction

Patrick Zwick, Axel Troncossi, Stefan Borsley, Iñigo j. Vitorica-Yrezabal, David a. Leigh

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To date, only a small number of chemistries and chemical fueling strategies have been successfully used to operate artificial molecular motors. Here, we report the 360° directionally biased rotation of phenyl groups about a C–C bond, driven by a stepwise Appel reaction sequence. The motor molecule consists of a biaryl-embedded phosphine oxide and phenol, in which full rotation around the biaryl bond is blocked by the P–O oxygen atom on the rotor being too bulky to pass the oxygen atom on the stator. Treatment with SOCl2 forms a cyclic oxyphosphonium salt (removing the oxygen atom of the phosphine oxide), temporarily linking the rotor with the stator. Conformational exchange via ring flipping then allows the rotor and stator to twist back and forth past the previous limit of rotation. Subsequently, the ring opening of the tethered intermediate with a chiral alcohol occurs preferentially through a nucleophilic attack on one face. Thus, the original phosphine oxide is reformed with net directional rotation about the biaryl bond over the course of the two-step reaction sequence. Each repetition of SOCl2–chiral alcohol additions generates another directionally biased rotation. Using the same reaction sequence on a derivative of the motor molecule that forms atropisomers rather than fully rotating 360° results in enantioenrichment, suggesting that, on average, the motor molecule rotates in the “wrong” direction once every three fueling cycles. The interconversion of phosphine oxides and cyclic oxyphosphonium groups to form temporary tethers that enable a rotational barrier to be overcome directionally adds to the strategies available for generating chemically fueled kinetic asymmetry in molecular systems.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Early online date6 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Feb 2024


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