By Tuan Nguyen
Posting in Technology
A tiny motor that measures a mere 1 nanometer across may lead to a whole new class of medical and engineering devices.
The world's smallest electric motor is comprised of nothing more than a single molecule.
The motor, developed by chemists at Tufts University, measures a mere 1 nanometer across, which makes the reigning record-holder (200 nanometers) look hulkingly massive.
Well... not really.
For perspective, a single strand of human hair is about 60,000 nanometers wide. But beyond being minis cue, the new motor may lead to a new class of devices that could be used in applications ranging from medicine to engineering.
To demonstrate that just one molecue is needed to generate motorized motion, the team provided a charge using a special low-temperature scanning tunneling microscope. Electricity was sent from the metal tip on the microscope to a butyl methyl sulfide molecule that had been placed on a conductive copper surface. This sulfur-containing molecule had carbon and hydrogen atoms radiating off to form what looked like two arms, with four carbons on one side and one on the other. These carbon chains were free to rotate around the sulfur-copper bond.
By controlling the molecule's temperature, researchers discovered that they can alter it's rotation speed. Temperatures around 5 Kelvin, or about minus 450 degrees Fahrenheit, proved to be the ideal to track the motor's motion. In this range, they were able to track all the motor's rotations and analyze the data.
But for foreseeable practical applications, breakthroughs would need to be made in the temperatures at which electric molecular motors operate. Currently, the motor spins much faster at higher temperatures, making it difficult to measure and control the rotation of the motor.
"Once we have a better grasp on the temperatures necessary to make these motors function, there could be real-world application in some sensing and medical devices which involve tiny pipes. Friction of the fluid against the pipe walls increases at these small scales, and covering the wall with motors could help drive fluids along," said E. Charles H. Sykes, a chemistry professor at Tufts and senior author on the paper. "Coupling molecular motion with electrical signals could also create miniature gears in nanoscale electrical circuits; these gears could be used in miniature delay lines, which are used in devices like cell phones."
The researchers have detailed their work online in Nature Nanotechnology and plan to submit the Tufts-built electric motor to Guinness World Records.
(via press release)
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Sep 6, 2011
Do you remember an early second generation "Star Trek" where Crusher lets his experiment get out of hand and the damned things started to eat the ship, or rather assemble more of themselves using material that the Enterprise was made of.
for the feedbag. Translation: "Mistakes" can be intestinal hopes of feedback, thus informing said author of audience awareness. But inre this case, I suspect a lack of a good word-processer and proof-reading pre-post. I did enjoy the article, thanks for that.
I wonder what the trans- a mission - would look like? It would have to be fairly large to turn the wheels, wouldn't it?
minis cue? Perhaps minuscule. This may seem like a small oversight, but it does erode at journalistic credibility. It worries me that a detail like this goes unattended before an article is published. Can it be that the same cursory level of attention is paid to research? I'm not accusing you of sloppy research, but I hope that illustrates my point... rigor in all aspects builds confidence. One tiny slip introduces doubt.
Motor going nano - unbelievable and will find many applications where small power is needed. Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India E-mail: email@example.com
"But for foreseeable practical applications, breakthroughs would need to be made in the temperatures at which electric molecular motors operate." I'd say finding a way to drive it with something other than a special low-temperature scanning tunneling microscope might be at the top of the list, too!
"But beyond being minis cue," is not what you wanted to write. Perhaps auto-correction was the problem. I did enjoy this interesting post. Its practical application eludes me, but the concept is promising.
caught the same "minuscule" problem; but rather than auto-correct, I thought perhaps the writer may have been using a voice-dictation software, such as Dragon. If so, then the author should work on his pronunciation as well as proof-reading skills. Also, you missed this..."Temperatures around 5 Kelvin, or about minus 450 degrees Fahrenheit, proved to be the ideal to track the motors motion." Proved to be the ideal -what? Or perhaps it proved to be ideal to track... without "the"?
...an auto correct problem, which indicates how far off the misspelling was, and also the fact that few of these online authors ever bother to read the stuff they write.