Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

android tablet pc

Home > Press > Quick-fix Molecular Machines

Berkeley Lab researchers at the Molecular Foundry have developed a route to rapidly assemble 'cage-like' container molecules that could be used as molecular machines.
Berkeley Lab researchers at the Molecular Foundry have developed a route to rapidly assemble 'cage-like' container molecules that could be used as molecular machines.

Berkeley Lab researchers have developed simple recipes to whip up ‘cage-like' container structures for the creation of complex molecular machines.

Quick-fix Molecular Machines

Berkeley, CA | Posted on May 25th, 2009

A sprinkle of this, a dash of that, sit back and let chemistry do its magic. Smells like a cooking analogy, but Berkeley Lab researchers have used just such a simple recipe to whip up ‘cage-like' container structures to create complex molecular machines that can be programmed to rotate, switch and perform mechanical work.

Previous research has shown efficient synthetic techniques can be used to construct complicated molecular machines that function by moving the individual parts within an overall molecular architecture. An example of this is a rotaxane-a complex molecule made of interlocking components that resemble wheels and axles. The tiniest building blocks in a scientist's toy chest, these nanoscale parts ‘clip' together to form functional molecular machines.

Unlike their macroscale counterparts, however, these interlocked molecules require no tinkering-"you can throw all the pieces together and let it assemble on its own," said Yi Liu, a staff scientist in the Organic and Macromolecular Synthesis Facility in the Molecular Foundry, a U.S. Department of Energy User Facility located at Berkeley Lab that provides support to nanoscience researchers around the world. ‘The challenge is how to engineer a synthetic route to make the assembly happen on demand."

Liu and colleagues have done just this, creating a caged structure made of benzene-like rings that assemble themselves around an axle of bipyridinium (a similar but positively-charged molecule containing nitrogen) to create an interlocked architecture. The cage itself could hold ions or small biological molecules, making it potentially useful for sensing applications.

"Our findings are especially attractive as the entire structure is formed through a ‘one-pot' synthesis from six individual ingredients. Once the driving force, in this case the weak interactions between molecules, is identified, we can tailor the clipping to give us just the interlocked structure in an efficient manner, without undesirable polymer byproducts," Liu said. "What could be simpler?"

The researchers anticipate the caged structure could be used as molecular containers for sensing, or as molecular switches by selectively sliding the cage along the axle, with ‘on' and ‘off' settings at either end. "The easy steps and simple precursors suggest these structures can be readily obtained in large-scale to support their applications," Liu adds.

"Linear p-acceptor templated dynamic clipping to macrobicycles and [2]rotaxanes," by Liana M. Klivansky, Gayane Koshkakaryan, Dennis Cao and Yi Liu, appears in Angewandte Chemie International Edition and is available in Angewandte Chemie online.

The Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, of the United States Department of Energy, supported this work, under contract No. DE-AC02-05 CH11231.

The Molecular Foundry is one of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers (NSRCs), premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE's Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge and Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. For more information about the DOE NSRCs, please visit


About Berkeley Lab
Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California. Visit our website at

For more information, please click here

Aditi Risbud

Copyright © Berkeley Lab

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

The International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) is proud to announce the 2014 Space Elevator Conference! This annual event will be held at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington from Friday, August 22nd through Sunday, August 24th August 19th, 2014

KaSAM-2014 International Conference (September 7-10, 2014, Kathmandu, Nepal) August 19th, 2014

Success in Intracellular Imaging of Cesium Distribution in Plants Used for Cesium Absorption August 19th, 2014

Electrical engineers take major step toward photonic circuits: Team invents non-metallic metamaterial that enables them to 'compress' and contain light August 19th, 2014

Possible Futures

Air Force’s 30-year plan seeks 'strategic agility' August 1st, 2014

IBM Announces $3 Billion Research Initiative to Tackle Chip Grand Challenges for Cloud and Big Data Systems: Scientists and engineers to push limits of silicon technology to 7 nanometers and below and create post-silicon future July 10th, 2014

Virus structure inspires novel understanding of onion-like carbon nanoparticles April 10th, 2014

Local girl does good March 22nd, 2014

Molecular Machines

Optimum inertial design for self-propulsion: A new study investigates the effects of small but finite inertia on the propulsion of micro and nano-scale swimming machines July 29th, 2014

Breakthrough laser experiment reveals liquid-like motion of atoms in an ultra-cold cluster: University of Leicester research team unlocks insights into creation of new nano-materials July 25th, 2014

NIST shows ultrasonically propelled nanorods spin dizzyingly fast July 22nd, 2014

University of Illinois researchers demonstrate novel, tunable nanoantennas July 14th, 2014

Self Assembly

Nanocubes Get in a Twist : Competing forces coax nanocubes into helical structures August 11th, 2014

Self-assembly of gold nanoparticles into small clusters August 4th, 2014

Carnegie Mellon Chemists Create Nanofibers Using Unprecedented New Method July 31st, 2014

Berkeley Lab researchers create nanoparticle thin films that self-assemble in 1 minute June 9th, 2014


Graphene rubber bands could stretch limits of current healthcare, new research finds August 19th, 2014

Iranian Scientists Stabilize Protein on Highly Stable Electrode Surface August 14th, 2014

Non-Enzyme Nanosensors Quickly Measure Blood Sugar August 12th, 2014

Sensor Fabrication, Integration, and Commercialization Workshop August 11th, 2014


Сalculations with Nanoscale Smart Particles August 19th, 2014

Life on Mars? Implications of a newly discovered mineral-rich structure August 19th, 2014

Harris & Harris Group Letter to Shareholders on Website August 19th, 2014

Electrical engineers take major step toward photonic circuits: Team invents non-metallic metamaterial that enables them to 'compress' and contain light August 19th, 2014

The latest news from around the world, FREE

  Premium Products
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More

Nanotechnology Now Featured Books


The Hunger Project

© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE