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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 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

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering


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