From nano-walker to nano-worker

Chemists from the University of California at Riverside designed two years ago a molecule which could move straight on a flat surface -- a nano-walker if you wish. Now, they've found a way to force this walking molecule to carry packages. The nano-worker can now carry two CO2 molecules. And like yourself when you carry two heavy bags, this nano-worker is slower when it carries other molecules. The researchers think their discovery will lead to reliable ways of carrying molecules, an equivalent of the conveyor belts in today's factories.

Chemists from the University of California at Riverside designed two years ago a molecule which could move straight on a flat surface -- a nano-walker if you wish. Now, they've found a way to force this walking molecule to carry packages. The nano-worker can now carry two CO2 molecules. And like yourself when you carry two heavy bags, this nano-worker is slower when it carries other molecules. The researchers think their discovery will lead to reliable ways of carrying molecules, an equivalent of the conveyor belts in today's factories.

Here is a short declaration from Ludwig Bartels, who led the project.

"This is an unprecedented step forward towards the realization of molecular-scale machinery," said Bartels, associate professor of chemistry and a member of UCR's Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering. "Our experiments show a means to transport molecules reliably. This will become as important to the molecular machinery of the future as trucks and conveyor belts are for factories of today."

Here is a link to the Bartels lab and below is an image showing three molecular carriers: the one at the bottom came with empty hands (so to speak), while the molecule at the top was carrying two CO2 molecules and is moving much slower (Credit: Bartels lab).

UCR nano walkers carrying CO2

And below is a nano-worker carrying its loads, like a human being carrying heavy loads in one or both hands (Credit: Bartels lab). Those two images have been extracted from a short video available on the site, but not directly accesible.

UCR nano worker

And what is this molecular carrier?

The molecule carrier is anthraquinone, which consists of three fused benzene rings with one oxygen atom on each side. An organic compound, anthraquinone is widely used in the pulp industry for turning cellulose from wood into paper. It is also the parent substance of a large class of dyes and pigments. Its chemical formula is C14H8O2.

For more information, this research work has been published by Science Express under the name "A Molecule Carrier" -- a very sober title for a scientiic journal (Published Online January 18, 2007). Here is a link to the abstract.

Sources: University of California at Riverside, January 18, 2006; and various other websites

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