Feeds

Single-molecule 'motor' measures just a nanometer

Don’t drop this on the floor

Seven Steps to Software Security

It’s not the first single-molecule nano-motor, but it’s the first one to be driven by electricity: a Tufts research team has demonstrated that you can “provide electricity to a single molecule and get it to do something that’s not just random” (as team leader Charles Sykes put it).

Previous single-molecule nano-motors have been driven either by light or by chemicals, the researchers say.

Driving the molecular motor isn’t trivially easy, though. To achieve what they wanted, the researchers had to use the metal tip of a low-temperature scanning tunneling electron microscope to provide the charge to a butyl methyl sulfide molecule placed on a copper surface.

The scanning tunneling electron microscope can spin the molecule

on the copper surface. Source: Sykes Laboratory illustration.

The scanning tunneling electron microscope can spin the atom on the copper surface. Source: Sykes Laboratory illustration.

Unsurprisingly, any practical application of the discovery is a long way away, but in the Tufts media release, Sykes imagined that it could be used to overcome the friction that takes place inside nano-tubes used (for example) in medical tests.

“At these small scales, friction of the fluid against the pipe walls increases, and covering the walls with motors may help drive the fluids along,” he said.

The researchers had to drop the temperatures down to 5 Kelvin, because at higher temperatures, the molecule spins too fast for measurement. Even at that temperature, the rotation ran at 50 per second. To prove that their observations weren’t just showing random behaviour, the group had to track every rotation, counting 5,000 rotations for “every single data point” in the experiment.

Future work will include getting a better understanding of the small-scale interactions taking place, and study how energy could be transferred to other molecules. ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.