Switchable host-guest systems on surfaces.
CONSPECTUS: For device miniaturization, nanotechnology follows either the "top-down" approach scaling down existing larger-scale devices or the "bottom-up' approach assembling the smallest possible building blocks to functional nanoscale entities. For synthetic nanodevices, self-assembly on surfaces is a superb method to achieve useful functions and enable their interactions with the surrounding world. Consequently, adaptability and responsiveness to external stimuli are other prerequisites for their successful operation. Mechanically interlocked molecules such as rotaxanes and catenanes, and their precursors, that is, molecular switches and supramolecular switches including pseudorotaxanes, are molecular machines or prototypes of machines capable of mechanical motion induced by chemical signals, biological inputs, light or redox processes as the external stimuli. Switching of these functional host-guest systems on surfaces becomes a fundamental requirement for artificial molecular machines to work, mimicking the molecular machines in nature, such as proteins and their assemblies operating at dynamic interfaces such as the surfaces of cell membranes. Current research endeavors in material science and technology are focused on developing either a new class of materials or materials with novel/multiple functionalities by shifting host-guest chemistry from solution phase to surfaces. In this Account, we present our most recent attempts of building monolayers of rotaxanes/pseudorotaxanes on surfaces, providing stimuli-induced macroscopic effects and further understanding on the switchable host-guest systems at interfaces. Biocompatible versions of molecular machines based on synthetic macrocycles, such as cucurbiturils, pillararenes, calixarenes, and cyclodextrins, have been employed to form self-assembled monolayers of gates on the surfaces of mesoporous silica nanoparticles to regulate the controlled release of cargo/drug molecules under a range of external stimuli, such as light, pH variations, competitive binding, and enzyme. Rotaxanes have also been assembled onto the surfaces of gold nanodisks and microcantilevers to realize active molecular plasmonics and synthetic molecular actuators for device fabrication and function. Pillararenes have been successfully used to control and aid the synthesis of gold nanoparticles, semiconducting quantum dots, and magnetic nanoparticles. The resulting organic-inorganic hydrid nanomaterials have been successfully used for controlled self-assembly, herbicide sensing and detection, pesticide removal, and so forth, taking advantage of the selective binding of pillarenes toward target molecules. Cyclodextrins have also been successfully functionalized onto the surface of gold nanoparticles to serve as recycling extractors for C60. Many interesting prototypes of nanodevices based on synthetic macrocycles and their host-guest chemistry have been constructed and served for different potential applications. This Account will be a summary of the efforts made mainly by us, and others, on the host-guest chemistry of synthetic macrocyclic compounds on the surfaces of different solid supports.