Chemists at Tufts University have developed the world's first single molecule electric motor, which may potentially create a new class of devices that could be used in applications ranging from medicine to engineering. The molecular motor was powered by electricity from a state of the art, low-temperature scanning tunneling microscope. This microscope sent an electrical current through the molecule, directing the molecule to rotate in one direction or another. The molecule had a sulfur base (yellow); when placed on a conductive slab of copper (orange), it became anchored to the surface. The sulfur-containing molecule had carbon and hydrogen atoms radiating off to form what looks like two arms (gray); these carbon chains were free to rotate around the central sulfur-copper bond. The researchers found that reducing the temperature of the molecule to five Kelvin (K), or about minus 450 degrees Fahrenheit (ºF), enabled them to precisely impact the direction and rotational speed of the molecular motor The Tufts team plans to submit this miniature electric motor to the Guinness World Records. The research was published online Sept. 4 in Nature Nanotechnology.
Heather L. Tierney, Colin J. Murphy, April D. Jewell, Ashleigh E. Baber, Erin V. Iski, Harout Y. Khodaverdian, Allister F. McGuire, Nikolai Klebanov and E. Charles H. Sykes.