Remote-controlled exchange rates by photoswitchable internal catalysis of dynamic covalent bonds


The transesterification of boronate esters with diols is tunable over 14 orders of magnitude. Rate acceleration is achieved by internal base catalysis, which lowers the barrier for proton transfer. Here we report a photoswitchable internal catalyst that tunes the rate of boronic ester/diol exchange over 4 orders of magnitude. We employed an acylhydrazone molecular photoswitch, which forms a thermally stable but photoreversible intramolecular H-bond, to gate the activity of the internal base catalyst in 8-quinoline boronic ester. The photoswitch is bidirectional and can be cycled repeatedly. The intramolecular H-bond is found to be essential to the design of this photoswitchable internal catalyst, as protonating the quinoline with external sources of acid has little effect on the exchange rate.

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