Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > What a ride! Researchers take molecules for a spin

Rice graduate student Alexey Akimov, left, and Anatoly Kolomeisky, associate professor of chemistry, have taken a large step toward defining the behavior of molecules attached to a gold surface.  (Credit Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)
Rice graduate student Alexey Akimov, left, and Anatoly Kolomeisky, associate professor of chemistry, have taken a large step toward defining the behavior of molecules attached to a gold surface. (Credit Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Abstract:
Rice University scientists model tiny rotors, key to future nanomachines

What a ride! Researchers take molecules for a spin

Houston, TX | Posted on February 1st, 2011

"This is no cartoon. It's a real molecule, with all the interactions taking place correctly," said Anatoly Kolomeisky as he showed an animation of atoms twisting and turning about a central hub like a carnival ride gone mad.

Kolomeisky, a Rice University associate professor of chemistry, was offering a peek into a molecular midway where atoms dip, dive and soar according to a set of rules he is determined to decode.

Kolomeisky and Rice graduate student Alexey Akimov have taken a large step toward defining the behavior of these molecular whirligigs with a new paper in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Physical Chemistry C. Through molecular dynamics simulations, they defined the ground rules for the rotor motion of molecules attached to a gold surface.

It's an extension of their work on Rice's famed nanocars, developed primarily in the lab of James Tour, Rice's T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science, but for which Kolomeisky has also constructed molecular models.

Striking out in a different direction, the team has decoded several key characteristics of these tiny rotors, which could harbor clues to the ways in which molecular motors in human bodies work.

The motion they described is found everywhere in nature, Kolomeisky said. The most visible example is in the flagella of bacteria, which use a simple rotor motion to move. "When the flagella turn clockwise, the bacteria move forward. When they turn counterclockwise, they tumble." On an even smaller level, ATP-synthase, which is an enzyme important to the transfer of energy in the cells of all living things, exhibits similar rotor behavior -- a Nobel Prize-winning discovery.

Understanding how to build and control molecular rotors, especially in multiples, could lead to some interesting new materials in the continuing development of machines able to work at the nanoscale, he said. Kolomeisky foresees, for instance, radio filters that would let only a very finely tuned signal pass, depending on the nanorotors' frequency.

"It would be an extremely important, though expensive, material to make," he said. "But if I can create hundreds of rotors that move simultaneously under my control, I will be very happy."

The professor and his student cut the number of parameters in their computer simulation to a subset of those that most interested them, Kolomeisky said. The basic-model molecule had a sulfur atom in the middle, tightly bound to a pair of alkyl chains, like wings, that were able to spin freely when heated. The sulfur anchored the molecule to the gold surface.

While working on a previous paper with researchers at Tufts University, Kolomeisky and Akimov saw photographic evidence of rotor motion by scanning tunneling microscope images of sulfur/alkyl molecules heated on a gold surface. As the heat rose, the image went from linear to rectangular to hexagonal, indicating motion. What the pictures didn't indicate was why.

That's where computer modeling was invaluable, both on the Kolomeisky lab's own systems and through Rice's platform, a shared supercomputer cluster. By testing various theoretical configurations -- some with two symmetrical chains, some asymmetrical, some with only one chain -- they were able to determine a set of interlocking characteristics that control the behavior of single-molecule rotors.

First, he said, the symmetry and structure of the gold surface material (of which several types were tested) has a lot of influence on a rotor's ability to overcome the energy barrier that keeps it from spinning all the time. When both arms are close to surface molecules (which repel), the barrier is large. But if one arm is over a space -- or hollow -- between gold atoms, the barrier is significantly smaller.

Second, symmetric rotors spin faster than asymmetric ones. The longer chain in an asymmetric pair takes more energy to get moving, and this causes an imbalance. In symmetric rotors, the chains, like rigid wings, compensate for each other as one wing dips into a hollow while the other rises over a surface molecule.

Third, Kolomeisky said, the nature of the chemical bond between the anchor and the chains determines the rotor's freedom to spin.

Finally, the chemical nature of rotating groups is also an important factor.

Kolomeisky said the research opens a path for simulating more complex rotor molecules. The chains in ATP-synthase are far too large for a simulation to wrangle, "but as computers get more powerful and our methods improve, we may someday be able to analyze such long molecules," he said.

The Welch Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health funded the research.

Read the abstract at tinyurl.com/6xxwtol

An animation of a rotor simulation is available here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJJxSs6AkeM

####

About Rice University
Located in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation's top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. A Tier One research university known for its "unconventional wisdom," Rice has schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and offers its 3,485 undergraduates and 2,275 graduate students a wide range of majors. Rice has the sixth-largest endowment per student among American private research universities and is rated No. 4 for “best value” among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. Its undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is less than 6-to-1. With a residential college system that builds close-knit and diverse communities and collaborative culture, Rice has been ranked No. 1 for best quality of life multiple times by the Princeton Review.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
David Ruth
713-348-6327


Mike Williams
713-348-6728

Copyright © Rice University

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 News Press

News and information

Enhancing the sensing capabilities of diamonds with quantum properties: A simple method can give diamonds the special properties needed for quantum applications such as sensing magnetic fields September 24th, 2017

Quantum twisted Loong confirms the physical reality of wavefunctions September 23rd, 2017

Application of air-sensitive semiconductors in nanoelectronics: 2-D semiconductor gallium selenide in encapsulated nanoelectronic devices September 22nd, 2017

Researchers set time limit for ultrafast perovskite solar cells September 22nd, 2017

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Quantum twisted Loong confirms the physical reality of wavefunctions September 23rd, 2017

DNA triggers shape-shifting in hydrogels, opening a new way to make 'soft robots' September 21st, 2017

Copper catalyst yields high efficiency CO2-to-fuels conversion: Berkeley Lab scientists discover critical role of nanoparticle transformation September 20th, 2017

Solar-to-fuel system recycles CO2 to make ethanol and ethylene: Berkeley Lab advance is first demonstration of efficient, light-powered production of fuel via artificial photosynthesis September 19th, 2017

Possible Futures

Enhancing the sensing capabilities of diamonds with quantum properties: A simple method can give diamonds the special properties needed for quantum applications such as sensing magnetic fields September 24th, 2017

Application of air-sensitive semiconductors in nanoelectronics: 2-D semiconductor gallium selenide in encapsulated nanoelectronic devices September 22nd, 2017

Researchers set time limit for ultrafast perovskite solar cells September 22nd, 2017

DNA triggers shape-shifting in hydrogels, opening a new way to make 'soft robots' September 21st, 2017

Academic/Education

Two Scientists Receive Grants to Develop New Materials: Chad Mirkin and Monica Olvera de la Cruz recognized by Sherman Fairchild Foundation August 16th, 2017

Moving at the Speed of Light: University of Arizona selected for high-impact, industrial demonstration of new integrated photonic cryogenic datalink for focal plane arrays: Program is major milestone for AIM Photonics August 10th, 2017

Graduate Students from Across the Country Attend Hands-on NanoCamp: Prominent scientists Warren Oliver, Ph.D., and George Pharr, Ph.D., presented a weeklong NanoCamp for hand-picked graduate students across the United States July 26th, 2017

The Physics Department of Imperial College, London, uses the Quorum Q150T to deposit metals and ITO to make plasmonic sensors and electric contact pads July 13th, 2017

Molecular Machines

How to draw electricity from the bloodstream: A one-dimensional fluidic nanogenerator with a high power-conversion efficiency September 11th, 2017

First 3-D observation of nanomachines working inside cells: Researchers headed by IRB Barcelona combine genetic engineering, super-resolution microscopy and biocomputation to allow them to see in 3-D the protein machinery inside living cells January 27th, 2017

Micro-bubbles make big impact: Research team develops new ultrasound-powered actuator to develop micro robot November 25th, 2016

Scientists come up with light-driven motors to power nanorobots of the future: Researchers from Russia and Ukraine propose a nanosized motor controlled by a laser with potential applications across the natural sciences and medicine November 11th, 2016

Announcements

Enhancing the sensing capabilities of diamonds with quantum properties: A simple method can give diamonds the special properties needed for quantum applications such as sensing magnetic fields September 24th, 2017

Quantum twisted Loong confirms the physical reality of wavefunctions September 23rd, 2017

Application of air-sensitive semiconductors in nanoelectronics: 2-D semiconductor gallium selenide in encapsulated nanoelectronic devices September 22nd, 2017

Researchers set time limit for ultrafast perovskite solar cells September 22nd, 2017

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