Scientists Unveil Super-Fast Submersible Nanomachines Driven by Light

11. 20. 15 by June Javelosa
Loic Samuel / Rice University

Researchers from Rice University have invented a UV-light driven nanomachine with motors that run at more than a million RPM. The molecular motors demonstrate how fast the molecular motors are, given that it can drive through solution of moving molecules that are roughly the same size.

“These are the fastest-moving molecules ever seen in solution…” explains Professor James Tour of Rice University. “This is akin to a person walking across a basketball court with 1,000 people throwing basketballs at him.”

The motors complete one revolution following four steps. Once excited by light, the double bond holding the rotor to the body becomes a single bond that allows it to rotate a quarter step. As it tries to return to a lower energy state, it will now jump adjacent atoms for another quarter turn. The process will repeat as long as the light is on.

Below, a chemical schematic shows the design of single-molecule nanosubmersibles created at Rice University. The sub’s fluorescent pontoons are blue; the motor is red.


Credit: Rice University
Submersible Applications

The motors itself are already well-known and have been used for various applications, however researchers behind this study were the first to explore application towards nano-cars and submersibles.

Researchers have also yet to find a way to directly steer the submarines, but they believe that the discovery could have potential for targeted drug delivery.

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