Two bis-urea type receptors were synthesized containing a polyether bridge and two 4-nitrophenyl groups as chromogenic units, R1 and R2. Molecular recognition studies of receptors towards different tetraalkylammonium and alkali metal salts were carried out in DMSO by UV-Vis and 1 H-NMR spectroscopy. The receptors were found to have high affinity for diverse anions and ion-pairs, showing the highest affinities towards the tetramethylammonium and sodium salts. The cation binding ability of the receptors was evidenced by means 1 H NMR, mass spectrometric ESI + studies and the crystal structures of some precursors. Additionally, the molecular modelling at the DFT level of the tetramethylammonium acetate complexes illustrates the potential ion-pair binding ability of the receptors: the anion is recognized through strong hydrogen bonds from the NH─ groups from the two urea sites, while the cation is bound by a combination of cation─π, C-H···O and C-H···π interactions.
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