Electric Motor Created Out Of A Single Molecule
“For the first time, an electric motor has been made from a single molecule. At 1 nanometre long, that makes the organic compound the smallest electric motor ever.
Its creators plan to submit their design to Guinness World Records, but the teeny motor could also have practical applications, such as pushing fluid through narrow pipes in “lab-on-a-chip” devices.
Molecules have previously converted energy from light and chemical reactions into directed motion like rolling or flapping. Electricity has also set an oxygen molecule spinning randomly. But controlled, electrically-driven motion – necessary for a device to be classed as a motor – had not yet been observed in a single molecule.
To address this, E. Charles Sykes at Tufts University in Boston and colleagues turned to asymmetric butyl methyl sulphide, a sulphur atom with a chain of four carbons on one side and a lone carbon atom on the other. They anchored the molecule to a copper surface via the sulphur atom, producing a lopsided, horizontal “propeller” that is free to rotate about the vertical copper-sulphur bond (see diagram).”