- Supramolecular chemistry
- Host–guest interactions
Molecular machines are ubiquitous in nature and function away from equilibrium by consuming fuels to produce appropriate work. Chemists have recently excelled at mimicking the fantastic job performed by natural molecular machines with synthetic systems soluble in organic solvents. In efforts toward analogous systems working in water, we show that guest molecules can be exchanged in the synthetic macrocycle cucurbituril by involving kinetic traps, and in such a way as modulating energy wells and kinetic barriers using pH, light and redox stimuli. Ditolyl-viologen can also be exchanged using the best kinetic trap and interfaced with alginate thus affording pH-responsive blue, fluorescent hydrogels. With tunable rate and binding constants toward relevant guests, cucurbiturils may become excellent ring molecules for the construction of advanced molecular machines working in water.