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Reedijk Symposium 2022: Photocontrol of Anion Binding and Transport

Friday 28 October 2022
Gorlaeus Lecture Hall Building (collegezalengebouw), Einsteinweg 57
Lecture Hall 1


The design and synthesis of molecular receptors for anions is among the most active branches of research in supramolecular chemistry. Artificial anion receptors have been applied in analyte sensing, wastewater extraction, and transmembrane transport, among others.[1] Stimulus control of binding affinity in these receptors would be highly advantageous, as for example it would facilitate recyclability when used as extractants and allow (de)activation of transmembrane transport processes. Therefore, several strategies have been developed to modulate anion binding affinity, most notably by using light. However, it remains highly difficult to make synthetic anion receptors react to stimuli in their environment and, in particular, to achieve large differences in binding affinity between addressable states.

Our group is developing various types of anion receptors that can be switched between distinct affinity modes using light.[2] In one example, a stiff-stilbene photoswitch was equipped with (thio)urea binding motifs, leading to strong and selective binding to its (Z)-isomer. The affinity dropped by more than 25-fold upon photochemical switching to the (E)-isomer and vice versa (Figure 1). Recently, we applied such receptors in the photomodulation of anion transport as well as membrane potential.[3] One of our future goals is to gain unprecedented control over the biological processes that are associated with this transport.


  1. N. Busschaert, C. Caltagirone, W. Van Rossom, P. A. Gale, Chem. Rev. 2015, 115, 8038.
  2. S. J. Wezenberg, B. L. Feringa, Org. Lett. 2017, 19, 324; D. Villarón, M. A. Siegler, S. J. Wezenberg, Chem. Sci. 2021, 12, 3188.
  3. S. J. Wezenberg, L.-J. Chen, J. E. Bos, B. L. Feringa, E. N. W. Howe, X. Wu, M. A. Siegler, P. A. Gale, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2022, 144, 331.


Sander Wezenberg studied Chemistry at the University of Nijmegen where he carried out his Master's research in the group of Prof. Roeland Nolte. He pursued his PhD studies in the field of supramolecular chemistry and catalysis with Prof. Arjan Kleij at the Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia. During this period, he spent time as a visiting researcher in the group of Prof. Joseph Hupp at Northwestern University. After receiving his PhD degree in 2011, he joined the group of Prof. François Diederich at ETH Zurich as a postdoctoral fellow. Two years later, he moved to the University of Groningen to work with Prof. Ben Feringa, where he was appointed Assistant Professor in 2017. He established his independent research group at Leiden University in 2019. His main research interests are in the areas of molecular switches, anion recognition, and self-assembly. Sander is recipient of an ERC Starting Grant (2018), as well as of NWO Vidi (2018) and Veni (2014) grants. He is also member of the Young Academy of Europe (YAE).

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