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The Mechanical Bond

4. Applications

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In the fourth mini-lecture, we discuss some of the applications of rotaxanes and catenanes. In pharmaceuticals, we see how a rotaxane can act as a pro-drug, ‘hiding’ the biologically active part of it before releasing it into the body at the correct time. We also see how the mechanical bond is already used in nature, providing stability to structural features. Additionally, we display its utility absorbing liquids such as water, thanks to its capability of stretching and compressing when needed. Finally we discuss chirality, a topic you may have come across already. But in rotaxanes and catenanes, we show how the rules work slightly differently.


In this course Professor Steve Goldup (University of Southampton) introduces the mechanical bond. In chemistry you have likely come across covalent, ionic, and metallic bonds but the mechanical bond is much more niche with a mostly untapped potential. We begin by: (i) defining what a mechanical bond is, and some simple examples of mechanically interlocked molecules; then (ii) covering its discovery and history, as well as the initial method of its synthesis; before (iii) moving on to more developed techniques of synthesis; then (iv) discussing some of the applications of this new bond type in pharmaceuticals and engineering; and then (v) discussing how molecular “switches” can be designed using mechanically interlocked molecules; and then (vi) building on this to design more complex “motor” systems; before finally (vii) showing off the chemistry carried out by rotaxanes that behave like an artificial ribosome.


Steve obtained an MChem degree from the University of Oxford where he began his research career with a Part II project in the group of Sir Prof. Jack Baldwin. He continued his research training with a PhD in natural product synthesis under the supervision of Prof. Tony Barrett before shifting focus to apply his synthetic skills to the realisation of mechanically interlocked non-natural products during post doctoral work with Prof. David Leigh at the University of Edinburgh where in 2007 he was appointed as Fixed Term Lecturer in Organic Chemistry. In 2008 he moved to Queen Mary with the award of a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship and in October 2009 he was awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship. In October 2014 the group moved to the University of Southampton where Steve took up the position of Associate Professor. In August 2017, Steve was promoted to Professor of Chemistry. Research in the Goldup Group focusses on the synthesis of novel mechanically interlocked molecules and their application as sensors, catalysts and materials. His general research focus is on the synthesis and applications of mechanically interlocked molecules such as rotaxanes and catenanes. These challenging molecules have been shown to have potential applications in catalysis, drug delivery, electronic materials and sensing. He and his group also investigate new synthetic methods and the underlying mechanism of organic reactions in order to develop molecular machines which carry out synthetic tasks to produce novel materials that are extremely hard to access in other ways - a trick we know can be used to great effect as many such devices are found in living cells.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Goldup, S. (2022, January 18). The Mechanical Bond - Applications [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Goldup, Steve. "The Mechanical Bond – Applications." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 18 Jan 2022,

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