Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors



Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > Chemist Aims to Turn Molecules Into Motors

Tufts University assistant professor Charles Sykes and two graduate students, Erin Iski and April Jewell, use a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) in their lab at Tufts University.

Credit: Joanie Tobin/Tufts University Photography
Tufts University assistant professor Charles Sykes and two graduate students, Erin Iski and April Jewell, use a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) in their lab at Tufts University. Credit: Joanie Tobin/Tufts University Photography

Abstract:
Charles Sykes and his team use scanning tunneling microscopes to study novel molecular motors and rotors

Chemist Aims to Turn Molecules Into Motors

Arlington, VA | Posted on July 30th, 2009

When Charles Sykes, Tufts University assistant chemistry professor, says he loves playing with blocks, he's not referring to the typical kids' toys. Instead, he's talking about his fascination with seeing atoms and molecules move on a computer screen in front of him and using technology to move the molecules himself to see how they react to various surfaces.

"I never get bored looking at pictures of atoms," said Sykes, who holds the Usen Family Career Development Assistant Professorship at Tufts University. "Atoms and molecules are the building blocks of life, but it has only been in the last 25 years that we have been able to see them, and in the last 15 years that we have been able to play with them."

In the lab, Sykes and his students explore questions related to nanoscience, or the study of things that are one billionth of a meter in size--80,000 times thinner than a human hair. To see molecules, the group uses scanning tunneling microscopes (STMs), which use electrons instead of light to make it possible to see things as small as individual atoms.

The goal is to understand how atoms and molecules interact with surfaces, and to build novel nanoscale structures by controlling these interactions. Theoretically, each molecule could be assigned a single task, creating ultra-tiny devices more than 10 million times smaller than some of the gadgets we use today, Sykes explained.

"Such machines are seen everywhere in nature. They perform tasks as varied as powering the motion of cells and even driving whole body locomotion through muscle contraction. However, mankind has not been able to create this molecular motion in nanoscale devices," said Sykes.

That means the first step for the Sykes' team is to turn molecules into motors.

While using the STM to look at sulfur-containing molecules, Sykes noticed they resembled an axle with a blade, much like a helicopter rotor. He began to wonder if they not only looked like rotors, but moved like rotors as well.

To test their motion, the researchers took small, simple molecules called thioethers, which are just one nanometer wide and composed of two, four-atom carbon chains on either side of a sulfur atom. Using liquid helium and a low-temperature STM, the researchers cooled the thioethers to seven degrees Kelvin (K), or about minus 447 degrees Fahrenheit (F), and could see that each molecule looked like a line or a thin oval. As the temperature increased to 25 degrees K (or minus 415 degrees F), the molecule began to look more like a hexagon because it was spinning so rapidly, similar to a helicopter blade.

"We discovered that, at very low temperatures, the molecules transition between a locked or 'frozen' state to one in which they spin at more than 1 million times per second," Sykes explained.

Next, the researchers tried to start and stop the spinning molecules. With the STM, they took an individual, spinning molecule and dragged it to a group of three molecules joined together that were not spinning. The individual molecule locked onto the group of three and stopped spinning. Similarly, the researchers took locked molecules and separated them, which caused each to start spinning.

The potential for one spinning molecule to cause a chain reaction and get other molecules to spin could find real-world applications in delay lines, commonly used in cellular phones to transmit signals, or in other electronics and optoelectronics.

In January, Sykes received a five-year Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that will allow him to continue his research into molecular rotation. The researchers must answer additional questions related to molecular direction and speed before being able to predict how these nanoscale structures might behave.

He also hopes to get a wider audience interested in what he considers a fascinating field. To accomplish this, Sykes and his graduate students have made a YouTube video on using nanotechnology for alternative energy sources and they have visited high school chemistry classes with a portable STM.

"I think if you get people at the right stage in their career to become interested in something like science, you can possibly change their path," said Sykes.

-- Suzanne C. Miller, Tufts University

This Behind the Scenes article was provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

Investigators
E. Charles Sykes

Related Institutions/Organizations
Tufts University

Locations
Massachusetts

Related Programs
Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program

Related Awards
#0844343 CAREER: Investigating and Controlling Molecular Rotation on Surfaces

Total Grants
$280,952

Related Websites
LiveScience.com: Behind the Scenes: Chemist Aims to Turn Molecules Into Motors: www.livescience.com/technology/090710-bts-nanomotors.html

####

About National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…" With an annual budget of about $6.06 billion, we are the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Suzanne C. Miller
Tufts University

Copyright © National Science Foundation

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.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related Links

More Images

Related News Press

News and information

Iranian Researchers Synthesize Stable Ceramic Nanopowders at Room Temperature September 20th, 2014

Arrowhead to Present at BioCentury's NewsMakers in the Biotech Industry Conference September 19th, 2014

SouthWest NanoTechnologies (SWeNT) Receives NIST Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 Award to Produce Greater than 99% Semiconducting Single-Wall Carbon Nanotubes September 19th, 2014

Toward optical chips: A promising light source for optoelectronic chips can be tuned to different frequencies September 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

Nanoelectronics

SouthWest NanoTechnologies (SWeNT) Receives NIST Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 Award to Produce Greater than 99% Semiconducting Single-Wall Carbon Nanotubes September 19th, 2014

Rice rolls 'neat' nanotube fibers: Rice University researchers' acid-free approach leads to strong conductive carbon threads September 15th, 2014

Excitonic Dark States Shed Light on TMDC Atomic Layers: Berkeley Lab Discovery Holds Promise for Nanoelectronic and Photonic Applications September 11th, 2014

Researchers Create World’s Largest DNA Origami September 11th, 2014

Announcements

Iranian Scientists Separate Zinc Ion at Low Concentrations September 20th, 2014

Arrowhead to Present at BioCentury's NewsMakers in the Biotech Industry Conference September 19th, 2014

SouthWest NanoTechnologies (SWeNT) Receives NIST Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 Award to Produce Greater than 99% Semiconducting Single-Wall Carbon Nanotubes September 19th, 2014

Toward optical chips: A promising light source for optoelectronic chips can be tuned to different frequencies September 19th, 2014

Tools

IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting To Celebrate 60th Anniversary as The Leading Technical Conference for Advanced Semiconductor Devices September 18th, 2014

FEI Opens New Technology Center in Czech Republic: FEI expands its presence in Brno with the opening of a new, larger facility September 18th, 2014

New NPZ100-403 Piezo Stage from nPoint Inc. September 17th, 2014

Researchers Create World’s Largest DNA Origami September 11th, 2014

Grants/Awards/Scholarships/Gifts/Contests/Honors/Records

SouthWest NanoTechnologies (SWeNT) Receives NIST Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 Award to Produce Greater than 99% Semiconducting Single-Wall Carbon Nanotubes September 19th, 2014

Big Results Require Big Ambitions: Three young UCSB faculty receive CAREER awards from the National Science Foundation September 18th, 2014

Effective Nanotechnology Innovations to Receive Mustafa Prize September 16th, 2014

‘Small’ transformation yields big changes September 16th, 2014

Photonics/Optics/Lasers

Toward optical chips: A promising light source for optoelectronic chips can be tuned to different frequencies September 19th, 2014

The Pocket Project will develop a low-cost and accurate point-of-care test to diagnose Tuberculosis: ICN2 holds a follow-up meeting of the Project on September 18th - 19th September 18th, 2014

'Squid skin' metamaterials project yields vivid color display: Rice lab creates RGB color display technology with aluminum nanorods September 15th, 2014

Fonon at Cutting-Edge of 3D Military Printing: Live-Combat Scenarios Could See a Decisive Advantage with 3D Printing September 15th, 2014

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



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














ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







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