Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors


Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > The smallest electric car in the world: A nano car with molecular 4-wheel drive

Measuring approximately 4x2 nanometres the molecular car is forging ahead on a copper surface on four electrically driven wheels.
Measuring approximately 4x2 nanometres the molecular car is forging ahead on a copper surface on four electrically driven wheels.

Abstract:
Reduced to the max: the emission-free, noiseless 4-wheel drive car, jointly developed by Empa researchers and their Dutch colleagues, represents lightweight construction at its most extreme. The nano car consists of just a single molecule and travels on four electrically-driven wheels in an almost straight line over a copper surface. The "prototype" can be admired on the cover of the latest edition of «Nature».

The smallest electric car in the world: A nano car with molecular 4-wheel drive

The Netherlands | Posted on November 10th, 2011

To carry out mechanical work, one usually turns to engines, which transform chemical, thermal or electrical energy into kinetic energy in order to, say, transport goods from A to B. Nature does the same thing; in cells, so-called motor proteins - such as kinesin and the muscle protein actin - carry out this task. Usually they glide along other proteins, similar to a train on rails, and in the process "burn" ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the chemical fuel, so to speak, of the living world.

A number of chemists aim to use similar principles and concepts to design molecular transport machines, which could then carry out specific tasks on the nano scale. According to an article in the latest edition of science magazine "Nature", scientists at the University of Groningen and at Empa have successfully taken "a decisive step on the road to artificial nano-scale transport systems". They have synthesised a molecule from four rotating motor units, i.e. wheels, which can travel straight ahead in a controlled manner. "To do this, our car needs neither rails nor petrol; it runs on electricity. It must be the smallest electric car in the world - and it even comes with 4-wheel drive" comments Empa researcher Karl-Heinz Ernst.

Range per tank of fuel: still room for improvement

The downside: the small car, which measures approximately 4x2 nanometres - about one billion times smaller than a VW Golf - needs to be refuelled with electricity after every half revolution of the wheels - via the tip of a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM). Furthermore, due to their molecular design, the wheels can only turn in one direction. "In other words: there's no reverse gear", says Ernst, who is also a professor at the University of Zurich, laconically.

According to its "construction plan" the drive of the complex organic molecule functions as follows: after sublimating it onto a copper surface and positioning an STM tip over it leaving a reasonable gap, Ernst's colleague, Manfred Parschau, applied a voltage of at least 500 mV. Now electrons should "tunnel" through the molecule, thereby triggering reversible structural changes in each of the four motor units. It begins with a cis-trans isomerisation taking place at a double bond, a kind of rearrangement - in an extremely unfavourable position in spatial terms, though, in which large side groups fight for space. As a result, the two side groups tilt to get past each other and end up back in their energetically more favourable original position - the wheel has completed a half turn. If all four wheels turn at the same time, the car should travel forwards. At least, according to theory based on the molecular structure.

To drive or not to drive - a simple question of orientation

And this is what Ernst and Parschau observed: after ten STM stimulations, the molecule had moved six nanometres forwards - in a more or less straight line. "The deviations from the predicted trajectory result from the fact that it is not at all a trivial matter to stimulate all four motor units at the same time", explains "test driver" Ernst.

Another experiment showed that the molecule really does behave as predicted. A part of the molecule can rotate freely around the central axis, a C-C single bond - the chassis of the car, so to speak. It can therefore "land" on the copper surface in two different orientations: in the right one, in which all four wheels turn in the same direction, and in the wrong one, in which the rear axle wheels turn forwards but the front ones turn backwards - upon excitation the car remains at a standstill. Ernst und Parschau were able to observe this, too, with the STM.

Therefore, the researchers have achieved their first objective, a "proof of concept", i.e. they have been able to demonstrate that individual molecules can absorb external electrical energy and transform it into targeted motion. The next step envisioned by Ernst and his colleagues is to develop molecules that can be driven by light, perhaps in the form of UV lasers.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Further Information

Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Ernst
«Nanoscale Materials Science»
Tel. +41 58 765 43 63


Editor/Media Contact

Dr. Michael Hagmann
Communication Dept.
Tel. +41 58 765 45 92

Copyright © Empa

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

Electrically driven directional motion of a four-wheeled molecule on a metal surface, T. Kudernac, N. Ruangsupapichat, M. Parschau, B. Macia, N. Katsonis, S.R. Harutyunyan, K.-H. Ernst, B.L. Feringa,

Related News Press

News and information

Making magnets flip like cats at room temperature: Heusler alloy NiMnSb could prove valuable as a new material for digital information processing and storage July 25th, 2016

An accelerated pipeline to open materials research: ORNL workflow system unites imaging, algorithms, and HPC to advance materials discovery and design July 24th, 2016

Russian physicists discover a new approach for building quantum computers: Physicists find a way of 'bundling together' multiple elements of a quantum computer July 24th, 2016

A 'smart dress' for oil-degrading bacteria July 24th, 2016

Possible Futures

Making magnets flip like cats at room temperature: Heusler alloy NiMnSb could prove valuable as a new material for digital information processing and storage July 25th, 2016

An accelerated pipeline to open materials research: ORNL workflow system unites imaging, algorithms, and HPC to advance materials discovery and design July 24th, 2016

Russian physicists discover a new approach for building quantum computers: Physicists find a way of 'bundling together' multiple elements of a quantum computer July 24th, 2016

A 'smart dress' for oil-degrading bacteria July 24th, 2016

Molecular Machines

New remote-controlled microrobots for medical operations July 23rd, 2016

Pushing a single-molecule switch: An international team of researchers from Donostia International Physics Center, Fritz-Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society, University of Liverpool, and the Polish Academy of Sciences has shown a new way to operate a single-molecule switch July 19th, 2016

Researchers harness DNA as the engine of super-efficient nanomachine: New platform detects traces of everything from bacteria to viruses, cocaine and metals July 10th, 2016

On the path toward molecular robots: Scientists at Japan's Hokkaido University have developed light-powered molecular motors that repetitively bend and unbend, bringing us closer to molecular robots. July 8th, 2016

Molecular Nanotechnology

New remote-controlled microrobots for medical operations July 23rd, 2016

Scientists develop way to upsize nanostructures into light, flexible 3-D printed materials: Virginia Tech, Livermore National Lab researchers develop hierarchical 3-D printed metallic materials July 20th, 2016

Pushing a single-molecule switch: An international team of researchers from Donostia International Physics Center, Fritz-Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society, University of Liverpool, and the Polish Academy of Sciences has shown a new way to operate a single-molecule switch July 19th, 2016

Researchers harness DNA as the engine of super-efficient nanomachine: New platform detects traces of everything from bacteria to viruses, cocaine and metals July 10th, 2016

Discoveries

Making magnets flip like cats at room temperature: Heusler alloy NiMnSb could prove valuable as a new material for digital information processing and storage July 25th, 2016

An accelerated pipeline to open materials research: ORNL workflow system unites imaging, algorithms, and HPC to advance materials discovery and design July 24th, 2016

Russian physicists discover a new approach for building quantum computers: Physicists find a way of 'bundling together' multiple elements of a quantum computer July 24th, 2016

A 'smart dress' for oil-degrading bacteria July 24th, 2016

Announcements

Making magnets flip like cats at room temperature: Heusler alloy NiMnSb could prove valuable as a new material for digital information processing and storage July 25th, 2016

An accelerated pipeline to open materials research: ORNL workflow system unites imaging, algorithms, and HPC to advance materials discovery and design July 24th, 2016

Russian physicists discover a new approach for building quantum computers: Physicists find a way of 'bundling together' multiple elements of a quantum computer July 24th, 2016

A 'smart dress' for oil-degrading bacteria July 24th, 2016

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







Car Brands
Buy website traffic