Feeds

Single-molecule 'motor' measures just a nanometer

Don’t drop this on the floor

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
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.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.