Tufts University chemists have announced the development of the world's first single-molecule electric motor — a mind-boggling concept in and of itself, but even more so when you take a look at the hard numbers. The new motor measures a mere 1 nanometer across — 200X smaller than the current world record for smallest electric motor (200 nanometers), and 60,000X smaller than the width of a single strand of human hair. This represents the first time an electrically driven molecular motor has been successfully demonstrated.
The research team was able to control the molecular motor with electricity by using a low-temperature scanning tunneling microscope (LT-STM). The scientists still need to refine the temperatures at which the electric molecular motors operate, but they have high hopes for its potential to advance practical applications, ranging from medical devices to cell phones.
"Once we have a better grasp on the temperature necessary to make these motors function, there could be real-world application in some sensing and medical devices which involve tiny pipes. Friction of the fluid against the pipe walls increases at these small scales, and covering the wall with motors that could help drive fluids along," said E. Charles H. Sykes, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry who led the research.