Monday, 5 September 2011

Motor created from single molecule

Scientists have created the worlds smallest electric motor, made from just a single molecule. 

The tiny device has the potential to lead the way for similar devices that could be used in medicine and engineering. At just 200 nanometers the microscopic motor is 60,000 times smaller than the width of human hair.

Leader of the research team Dr Charles Sykes, from Tufts University in Boston, US, said: "There has been significant progress in the construction of molecular motors powered by light and by chemical reactions, but this is the first time that electrically-driven molecular motors have been demonstrated, despite a few theoretical proposals.

"We have been able to show that you can provide electricity to a single molecule and get it to do something that is not just random."

This team, whose research has been published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, used a state-of-the-art low temperature scanning tunnelling microscope, which uses electrons instead of light to "see" molecules.
The metal tip of the microscope provided an electrical charge to a butyl methyl sulphide molecule placed on a conductive copper surface.
This resulted in the needle like arms of carbon and hydrogen to rotate around a central axis. 
Temperature was found to directly affect direction and speed. Minus 268C was also found to be ideal for tracking the motors motion . The motor span was much faster at higher temperatures , making it difficult to observe and control. 

According to Dr Sykes : "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."


  1. i can see this being a great help probably in the area of key hole surgery and other intricate parts of operating. for being so small its potential is huge! it may even be a help maybe in the area of making artificial organs maybe or am i going to far? i think maybe for its small size it could be in some way incorporated into this part of medical study

  2. This seems a great berak through but Im not really sure of the uses for this "motor" cell ...

  3. Nanotechnology often has an expensive price tag.I wonder if this is an affordable technology?! (The specific microscope mentioned does not sound common or easy to come by )