November 11, 2011
The World’s Smallest Electric Car Made Out Of Single Molecule
Scientists have developed the world's smallest electric car, made from a single molecule.
The molecule has four branches that act as wheels and rotate when a tiny metal tip helps apply a small current of electricity to them.The car was made to move six billionths of a meter with just 10 electric bursts.
The car's "batteries" are a scanning tunneling microscope, which is a fine point of metal that ends in just an atom or two. As the tip draws near the molecule, electrons jump into it.
"If you look around, in all biological systems are a vast number of molecular machines or rotors based on proteins that do important things very well; muscle contraction is based on protein motors," Tibor Kudernac, a chemist now at the University of Twente, the Netherlands, and lead author of the paper, said in a statement.
"This is a simple demonstration that we can achieve anything like that. It's an important observation and I think it will motivate people to think about it perhaps a bit more from an application point of view."
He said the first task was to make it the car work under normal conditions. He has currently been working the molecule at -446.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
"There are ways to play around," he said in a statement. "That's what we chemists do - we try to design molecules for particular purposes, and I don't see any fundamental limitations."
The work was published in the journal Nature.
Image Caption: Measuring approximately 4x2 nanometers the molecular car is forging ahead on a copper surface on four electrically driven wheels.
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