Feeds

Single-molecule 'motor' measures just a nanometer

Don’t drop this on the floor

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

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. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.