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Electric Motor Created From A Single Molecule

September 5, 2011 by staff 

Electric Motor Created From A Single MoleculeElectric Motor Created From A Single Molecule, The world’s smallest electric motor has been created from a single molecule, giving hope to scientists to develop new devices that can be applied in medicine and engineering.

A team of chemists at Tufts University have developed a single molecule microscope to measure the engine of a nanometer wide, and this impressive achievement is likely to be recognized by Guinness World Records

A nanometer is 60,000 times smaller than a single strand of human hair, and the current world record is an engine of 200 nanometers.

“There has been significant progress in the construction of molecular motors powered by light and chemical reactions, but this is the first electrically-driven molecular motors have been demonstrated, despite some theoretical proposals,” said E. Charles H. Sykes, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry at Tufts who headed the team.

“We were able to prove they can provide electricity to a single molecule and get it to do something that is not random.”

The team used a scanning tunneling microscope that shows molecules by electrons instead of light, and managed to weave a single molecule butyl methyl sulfide. Use the metal tip of the microscope to provide an electrical charge to the molecule that had been placed on a copper surface.

This molecule contains carbon and hydrogen atoms radiating from it to form what appear to be two arms with four carbon atoms on one side and one on the other. These carbon chains can rotate freely around the binding of sulfur and copper at speeds up to 120 rpm.

The scientists found that a freeze least 268 degrees Celsius, was ideal for monitoring the movement of the motor and the direction and speed were affected by temperature.

At higher temperatures, the engine is running too fast to observe and control.

“Not that I could work at a higher temperature -. But it is also a lot going to that speed, it’s just a blur,” said Sykes.

“Once we have a better understanding of the temperatures required to perform these functions in engines, which could have real-world application in some sensors and medical devices that include small pipes,” said Sykes.

“The liquid friction against the walls of the pipe is increased by these small scales, and covering the wall with engines could help drive fluids along.”

A single molecules of energy, electricity gives greater accuracy than the light and chemicals, as “driving billions of them at once,” says Sykes told the BBC. With electricity, “we can land right on top of a molecule, measure and back,” Sykes said, adding that the best way to drive molecules accurately. The new method gives scientists great hope for the advancement of nano-sensors and medicine.

Slightly modifying the molecule, molecular motors may be used to generate microwave radiation or partner in nano-electromechanical (NEMS).

“The next step is to get there is to do a job that can be measured – to bind to other molecules, aligning them next to each other so they’re like miniature gears, and then see the spread of rotation to down the chain, “said Sykes.

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