Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rice Scientists Build World's First Single-molecule Car

Date:
October 21, 2005
Source:
Rice University
Summary:
Rice University scientists have constructed the world's smallest working car -- a single molecule "nanocar" that contains a chassis, a pivoting suspension, freely rotating axles and four buckyball wheels. The 3x4 nanometer car is described in the online edition of Nano Letters. The vehicle is a testbed for bottom-up molecular manufacturing. Rather than sliding around on a smooth gold surface, the researchers were able to show that the nanocar rolled on its wheels.

Rice University scientists have constructed the world's smallest car -- a single molecule "nanocar" that contains a chassis, axles and four buckyball wheels.
Credit: Y. Shira/Rice University

Rice University scientists have constructed the world's smallest car -- a single molecule "nanocar" that contains a chassis, axles and four buckyball wheels.

The "nanocar" is described in a research paper that is available online and due to appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Nano Letters.

"The synthesis and testing of nanocars and other molecular machines is providing critical insight in our investigations of bottom-up molecular manufacturing," said one of the two lead researchers, James M. Tour, the Chao Professor of Chemistry, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and professor of computer science. "We'd eventually like to move objects and do work in a controlled fashion on the molecular scale, and these vehicles are great test beds for that. They're helping us learn the ground rules."

The nanocar consists of a chassis and axles made of well-defined organic groups with pivoting suspension and freely rotating axles. The wheels are buckyballs, spheres of pure carbon containing 60 atoms apiece. The entire car measures just 3-4 nanometers across, making it slightly wider than a strand of DNA. A human hair, by comparison, is about 80,000 nanometers in diameter.

Other research groups have created nanoscale objects that are shaped like automobiles, but study co-author Kevin F. Kelly, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, said Rice's vehicle is the first that actually functions like a car, rolling on four wheels in a direction perpendicular to its axles.

Kelly and his group, experts in scanning tunneling microscopy (STM), provided the measurements and experimental evidence that verified the rolling movement.

"It's fairly easy to build nanoscale objects that slide around on a surface," Kelly said. "Proving that we were rolling -- not slipping and sliding -- was one of the most difficult parts of this project."

To do that, Kelly and graduate student Andrew Osgood measured the movement of the nanocars across a gold surface. At room temperature, strong electrical bonds hold the buckyball wheels tightly against the gold, but heating to about 200 degrees Celsius frees them to roll. To prove that the cars were rolling rather than sliding, Kelly and Osgood took STM images every minute and watched the cars progress. Because nanocars' axles are slightly longer than the wheelbase -- the distance between axles -- they could determine the way the cars were oriented and whether they moved perpendicular to the axles.

In addition, Kelly's team found a way to grab the cars with an STM probe tip and pull them. Tests showed it was easier to drag the cars in the direction of wheel rotation than it was to pull them sideways.

Synthesis of the nanocars also produced major challenges. Tour's research group spent almost eight years perfecting the techniques used to make them. Much of the delay involved finding a way to attach the buckyball wheels without destroying the rest of the car. Palladium was used as a catalyst in the formation of the axle and chassis, and buckyballs had a tendency to shut down the palladium reactions, so finding the right method to attach the wheels involved a good bit of trial and error.

The Rice team has already followed up the nanocar work by designing a light-driven nanocar and a nanotruck that's capable of carrying a payload.

###

Other members of the research team include chemistry graduate student Yasuhiro Shirai and post doctoral associate Yuming Zhao.

The research was funded by the Welch Foundation, Zyvex Corporation and the National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rice University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Rice University. "Rice Scientists Build World's First Single-molecule Car." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 October 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051021021040.htm>.
Rice University. (2005, October 21). Rice Scientists Build World's First Single-molecule Car. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051021021040.htm
Rice University. "Rice Scientists Build World's First Single-molecule Car." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051021021040.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Gulfstream G500, G600 Unveiling

Gulfstream G500, G600 Unveiling

Flying (Oct. 20, 2014) Watch Gulfstream's public launch of the G500 and G600 at their headquarters in Savannah, Ga., along with a surprise unveiling of the G500, which taxied up under its own power. Video provided by Flying
Powered by NewsLook.com
Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 20, 2014) Scientists in Tokyo have demonstrated what they say is the world's first 3D projection that floats in mid air. A laser that fires a pulse up to a thousand times a second superheats molecules in the air, creating a spark which can be guided to certain points in the air to shape what the human eye perceives as an image. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

3BL Media (Oct. 20, 2014) Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala Video provided by 3BL
Powered by NewsLook.com
What We Know About Microsoft's Rumored Smartwatch

What We Know About Microsoft's Rumored Smartwatch

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) Microsoft will reportedly release a smartwatch that works across different mobile platforms, has a two-day battery life and tracks heart rate. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins