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The Mechanical Bond

5. The Molecular Switch

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In the fifth mini-lecture, we look at how we can begin to control molecular motion using rotaxanes. We start by thinking about how we might design a simple molecular ‘switch’, where the movement of a ring-shaped molecule up and down the axle of a rotaxane is controlled by chemistry. These are all processes that we describe first with diagrams, before discussing some of the chemistry that enables it.


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.

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APA style

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

MLA style

Goldup, S. "The Mechanical Bond – The Molecular Switch." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 18 Jan 2022,

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