Molecular switches as motors of molecular machines

Published on August 17, 2012

Switching processes are the elementary steps in most sophisticated functions in the macroscopic world, as well as at the molecular level. Photochromic compounds are most frequently used as molecular switches, and among them azobenzene derivatives are most popular.


Our goals are threefold. First, we want to improve the switching properties of azobenzene. Second, we aim at modifying the parent compound by proper substitution. Finally, we change the molecular framework to perform more sophisticated tasks. Recently, we discovered that diazocines are better suited to our task than simple azobenzenes. We are currently designing new diazocines with the ultimate goal to build a “molecular assembler”. These compounds are similar to ATP synthase in that they are driven by an external energy source (light) and fabricate molecules in a predetermined machine-like process.

Herges Group | Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, Germany

Rainer Herges is Professor for Organic Chemistry at the Otto-Diels-Institute of Organic Chemistry at the Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, Germany. He is the coordinator of the collaborative research center “Function by Switching” (SFB 677) funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft). His research interests include supramolecular chemistry, photochemistry, Möbius aromaticity, and computational chemistry.

Hanno Sell has been working in the group of Prof. Herges as a Diploma student since 2008. He continued his work in the group as a PhD student. Hanno Sell developed molecular switches for the light-driven condensation of oxoanions.

Benjamin Sahlmann joined the group of Prof. Herges in 2008 as a Diploma student. He is now working on his PhD thesis. He develops photochromic switches on the basis of the norbornadiene/quadricyclane isomerization. Furthermore, he is a talented electrical engineer and builds the light sources that are required for photochromic-switching experiments.

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