Journal of the American Chemical Society

Helical folding of alkanes in a self-assembled, cylindrical capsule.

PMID 15479107


The reversible encapsulation of a series of normal alkane guests in a cylindrical host was studied by NMR methods. For small hydrocarbons such as n-pentane or n-hexane, two guests enter the host, and they move freely within. With n-heptane no encapsulation takes place. For longer alkanes such as n-decane, a single guest enters and the aromatic walls of the host are seen to twist to avoid empty spaces and increase favorable interactions with the hydrocarbon. The best guest (n-undecane) adopts a conformation with minimal gauche interactions. The longest alkane accommodated, n-tetradecane, adopts a helical conformation to fit in the cavity, a shape that maximizes CH/pi interactions with the aromatic walls of the receptor. These reciprocal conformational changes are discussed in terms of optimal host/guest interactions.