Desymmetrised pentaporphyrinic gears mounted on metallo-organic anchors†
Mastering intermolecular gearing is crucial for the emergence of complex functional nanoscale machineries. However, achieving correlated motion within trains of molecular gears remains highly challenging, due to the multiple degrees of freedom of each cogwheel. In this context, we designed and synthesised a series of star-shaped organometallic molecular gears incorporating a hydrotris(indazolyl)borate anchor to prevent diffusion on the surface, a central ruthenium atom as a fixed rotation axis, and an azimuthal pentaporphyrinic cyclopentadienyl cogwheel specifically labelled to monitor its motion by non-time-resolved Scanning Tunneling Microscopy (STM). Desymmetrisation of the cogwheels was first achieved sterically, i.e. by introducing one tooth longer than the other four. For optimal mechanical interactions, chemical labelling was also investigated as a preferential way to induce local contrast in STM images, and the electronic properties of one single paddle were modulated by varying the porphyrinic scaffold or the nature of the central metal. To reach such a structural diversity, our modular synthetic approach relied on sequential cross-coupling reactions on a penta(p-halogenophenyl)cyclopentadienyl ruthenium(II) key building block, bearing a single pre-activated p-iodophenyl group. Chemoselective Sonogashira or more challenging Suzuki–Miyaura reactions allowed the controlled introduction of the tagged porphyrinic tooth, and the subsequent four-fold cross-couplings yielded the prototypes of pentaporphyrinic molecular gears for on-surface studies, incorporating desymmetrised cogwheels over 5 nm in diameter.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2021 Chemical Science HOT Article Collection