Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An electric car made by a single molecule

A recent study published in Nature shows the careful chemical design and manufacture of a 4x4 power formed by just one molecule. This molecule deposited on a copper surface and adding energy in the form of electrons, the authors of the molecule have made ​​the move in a specific direction, like a car. It is the first time that a molecule is achieved perform a movement continuous across the surface in the same direction.

In the complex art of making changes in the shape of the targeted molecules in motion, nature reigns. In our body we can find many examples of protein motors convert chemical energy capable of mechanical work. These include the myosin muscle protein that triggers the contraction of muscle fibers in animals.

Taking nature as inspiration, using nanotechnology have been able to design artificial systems that manage diverse movement, but so far, the molecules were mere passive elements. However, the four ends of the molecule of this work, signed by scientists at the University of Groningen (Netherlands), acting as the wheel of a car.

Four arms

The molecule consists of four arms that act as a tiny rotary engines when they are transferred electrons metal tip. If all four engines rotate in the same direction, there is a straight-line motion, similarly to how a pedal boat or skid.

The tiny metal tip that acts as a car battery , just one or a few atoms and part of the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM). It is used both to transfer electrons to the molecule so that it can move, to visualize the molecule and its movement.

Changing the direction of the rotational motion of individual motor units in each arm, the 'nanocar' can make a move at random or linear paths. The authors believe that "This design represents a starting point to explore more sophisticated molecular mechanical systems, perhaps with complete control over the direction of movement."


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