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Understanding Enantioselective Interactions by Pulling Apart Molecular Rotor Complexes

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journal contribution
posted on 09.05.2019, 00:00 by Amanda M. Larson, Kyle Groden, Ryan T. Hannagan, Jean-Sabin McEwen, E. Charles H. Sykes
Enantioselective interactions underpin many important phenomena from biological mechanisms to chemical catalysis. In this regard, there is great interest in understanding these effects at the molecular level. Surfaces provide a platform for these studies and aid in the long-term goal of designing heterogeneous enantiospecific interfaces. Herein we report a model system consisting of molecular rotors, one intrinsically chiral (propylene oxide) and one that becomes chiral when adsorbed on a surface (propene). Scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) measurements enable the chirality of each individual molecule to be directly visualized, and density functional theory based calculations are performed to rationalize the chiral time-averaged appearance of the molecular rotors. While there are no attractive intermolecular interactions between the molecular species themselves, when mixed together there is a strong preference for the formation of 1:1 heteromolecular pairs. We demonstrate that STM tip-induced molecular manipulations can be used to assemble these complexes, examine the chirality of each species, and thereby interrogate if their interactions are enantioselective. A statistical analysis of this data reveals that intrinsically chiral propylene oxide preferentially binds one of the enantiomers of propene with a 3:2 ratio, thereby demonstrating that the surface chirality of small nonchiral molecules can be directed with a chiral modifier. As such, this investigation sheds light onto previously reported ensemble studies in which chirally seeded layers of molecules that are achiral in the gas phase can lead to an amplification of enantioselective adsorption.