A novel ammonium ionophore, which exhibits superior NH4+ selectivity compared with that of the natural antibiotic nonactin, was successfully designed and synthesized based on a 19-membered crown compound (TD19C6) having three decalino subunits in the macrocyclic system. This bulky decalino subunit is effective for (1) increasing the structural rigidity of the cyclic compound, (2) introducing the 'block-wall effect', which prevents forming a complex with a large ion, and (3) increasing the lipophilicity of the ionophore molecule. In the ammonium ionophore design, the first factor contributes to increasing the NH4+ selectivity relative to smaller ions such as Li+, Na+, or even the closest size, K+, and the second factor increases the NH4+ selectivity over larger ions such as Rb+ and Cs+. The X-ray structural analysis proved that TD19C6 forms a size-fit complex with NH4+ in its crown ring cavity. As an application of this ionophore, an ion sensor (ion-selective electrode) was prepared, which exhibited NH4+ to K+ and Na+ selectivity of 10 and 3000 times, respectively. This electrode showed a better performance compared to the electrode based on nonactin, which is the only ammonium ionophore presently used in practical applications.
ASJC Scopus subject areas