Molecular motor-driven abrupt anisotropic shape change in a single crystal of a Ni complex

Zi Shuo Yao, Masaki Mito, Takashi Kamachi, Yoshihito Shiota, Kazunari Yoshizawa, Nobuaki Azuma, Yuji Miyazaki, Kazuyuki Takahashi, Kuirun Zhang, Takumi Nakanishi, Soonchul Kang, Shinji Kanegawa, Osamu Sato

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50 Citations (Scopus)


Many molecular machines with controllable molecular-scale motors have been developed. However, transmitting molecular movement to the macroscopic scale remains a formidable challenge. Here we report a single crystal of a Ni complex whose shape changes abruptly and reversibly in response to thermal changes at around room temperature. Variableerature single-crystal X-ray diffraction studies show that the crystalline shape change is induced by an unusual 90° rotation of uniaxially aligned oxalate molecules. The oxalate dianions behave as molecular-scale rotors, with their movement propagated through the entire crystalline material via intermolecular hydrogen bonding. Consequently, the subnanometre-scale changes in the oxalate molecules are instantly amplified to a micrometre-scale contraction or expansion of the crystal, accompanied by a thermal hysteresis loop. The shape change in the crystal was clearly detected under an optical microscope. The large directional deformation and prompt response suggest a role for this material in microscale or nanoscale thermal actuators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1079-1083
Number of pages5
JournalNature Chemistry
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)

Cite this

Yao, Z. S., Mito, M., Kamachi, T., Shiota, Y., Yoshizawa, K., Azuma, N., Miyazaki, Y., Takahashi, K., Zhang, K., Nakanishi, T., Kang, S., Kanegawa, S., & Sato, O. (2014). Molecular motor-driven abrupt anisotropic shape change in a single crystal of a Ni complex. Nature Chemistry, 6(12), 1079-1083.