Toward Fast and Efficient Visible-Light-Driven Molecular Motors: A Minimal Design

Abstract

A key goal in the development of light-driven rotary molecular motors is to facilitate their usage in biology and medicine by shifting the required irradiation wavelengths from the UV regime to the nondestructive visible regime. Although some progress has been made toward this goal, most available visible-light-driven motors either have relatively low quantum yields or require that thermal steps follow the photoisomerizations that underlie the rotary motion. Here, a minimal design for visible-light-driven motors without these drawbacks is presented and evaluated on the basis of state-of-the-art quantum chemical calculations and molecular dynamics simulations. The design, featuring dihydropyridinium and cyclohexenylidene motifs and comprising only five conjugated double bonds, is found to produce a full 360° rotation through fast photoisomerizations (excited-state lifetimes of ≈ 170-250 fs) powered by photons with energies well below 3 eV. Funding agencies: Swedish Research Council [621-2011-4353]; Olle Engkvist Foundation [2014/734, 184-568]; Carl Trygger Foundation [CTS 15:134]; Linkoping University</p

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