London: Scientists have come up with the world’s smallest tiny four-wheeled vehicle, which is in the form of a molecule and uses electrons to move forward.
To create the new nanocar, the team of scientists including Ben Feringa, University of Groningen in the Netherlands along with Karl-Heinz Ernst, Syuzanna Harutyunyan and Nathalie Katsonis, attached four molecular motors to a synthetic molecule.
The motors operate as pedal wheels, which when excited electrically, propel the whole system over a copper surface, Discovery News reported.
The energetic electrons when shot at the tiny car change the rotor shapes, moving them along a fraction of a nanometer.
The motors are controlled individually, giving them directionality similar to steering in a macro-scale car.
“This is the first example where you really have a motor function,” said Feringa, who led the nano-vehicle’s creation.
“You can put in energy so you have a propulsion mechanism like in a real motor in a car.”
Feringa and his team worked at low temperatures in a vacuum so that the molecules would stay still till the time they are activated, akin to putting on the parking brake so a real car doesn’t accidentally roll downhill.
“Control of motion in the nano world is very difficult, and the motion is very different from what happens in the macro world,” Feringa said.
Gravity and weight do not keep a molecular vehicle grounded the way they keep a human-sized car.
“There’s a big incentive to develop motors that ultimately can provide the energy to do all kinds of functions at the nanoscale.”
While he called his development “very small,” Feringa said that it’s a critical step in creating real, advanced nano machines.
In due course, he would like to be able to take larger steps, improving the controls, getting the molecular vehicle to work at room temperature, and move on a longer trajectory.
Their nanocar is described in the November 10 issue of the journal Nature.