A University of Colorado at Boulder team has developed the first computer-generated model of a tiny, waterwheel-like molecular rotor that has been harnessed to rotate in one direction at different speeds in response to changes in the strength of an electrical field applied from the outside.
The synthetic molecule features a chemical axle with two attached "paddles" carrying opposite electrical charges, which is mounted parallel to a gold substrate surface, said Professor Josef Michl of CU-Boulders chemistry and biochemistry department. The researchers found that the microscopic rotor -- constructed with a few hundred atoms -- will turn in a desired direction at a selected frequency using an oscillating electrical field concentrated in a tiny area above the molecule.
Such molecular rotors may someday function as nanotechnology machines and be used as chemical sensors, cell-phone switches, miniature pumps or even laser-blocking goggles, he said. A paper by Michl and former CU-Boulder postdoctoral student Dominik Horinek, the Feodr Lynen Fellow of the German Humboldt Foundation, appeared in the Oct. 4 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Josef Michl | EurekAlert!
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