Scientists from A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering have invented a molecular gear of the size of 1.2nm whose rotation can be deliberately controlled. The research opens the way for the future development of molecule-sized machines that may lead to innovations like pocket-sized supercomputers, miniature energy harvesting devices and data computing on atomic scale electronic circuits.
Said Prof Christian Joachim who led the team, “Making a gear the size of a few atoms is one thing, but being able to deliberately control its motions and actions is something else altogether. What we’ve done at IMRE is to create a truly complete working gear that will be the fundamental piece in creating more complex molecular machines that are no bigger than a grain of sand.”
Before the team’s discovery, motions of molecular rotors and gears were random and typically consisted of a mix of rotation and lateral displacement. The scientists at IMRE solved this scientific conundrum by proving that the rotation of the molecule-gear could be well controlled by manipulating the electrical connection between the molecule and the tip of a Scanning Tunnelling Microscope while it was pinned on an atom axis.
The research was published in 2009 but will be included in the 2012 edition of Guinness World Records.
(photos from IMRE)