Anion exchange drives reversible phase transfer of coordination cages and their cargoes

Angela B. Grommet, Jack B. Hoffman, Edmundo G. Percástegui, Jesús Mosquera, Duncan J. Howe, Jeanne L. Bolliger, Jonathan R. Nitschke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Chemical separations technologies are energetically costly; lowering this cost through the development of new molecular separation methods would thus enable significant energy savings. Molecules could, for example, be selectively encapsulated and separated using coordination cages, which can be designed with cavities of tailored sizes and geometries. Before cages can be used to perform industrially relevant separations, however, the experimental and theoretical foundations for this technology must be established. Using hydrophobic and hydrophilic anions as stimuli, we show that cages can reversibly transfer many times between mutually immiscible liquid phases, thus transporting their molecular cargoes over macroscopic distances. Furthermore, when two cages are dissolved together, sequential phase transfer of individual cage species results in the separation of their molecular cargoes. We present a thermodynamic model that describes the transfer profiles of these cages, both individually and in the presence of other cage species. This model provides a new analytical tool to quantify the hydrophobicity of cages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14770-14776
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number44
Early online date16 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2018


  • thermodynamics
  • hydrophobicity
  • anions
  • electrical properties


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