A single molecule working as the nano scale version of the steam engine: that’s the molecular motor developed by a group of UT scientists led by prof. Julius Vancso of the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology. Natural ‘motor molecules’, capable of converting chemical energy into movement, have been the source of inspiration for this new synthetic version: a polymer molecule that stretches and shrinks caused by redox reactions. The results appear on the cover of Rapid Macromolecular Rapid Communications of January 23 .
The cycle of oxidation and reduction, causing soft/hard transitions within the molecule. The associated stretching and shrinking gives the mechanical energy. The forces are monitored by the tip of an Atomic Force Microscope, on top of the molecule. The bottom of the chain is fixed on a gold surface.
In nature, some proteins are capable of converting chemical into mechanical energy, by burning ‘fuel molecules’. The synthetic version now presented is a polymer chain, fixed on a surface on one side. Fully stretched, this molecule is a few tens of nanometers long. A cyclic process can be started, in which parts of the chain alternately harden and soften. The result is an amount of mechanical energy, sufficient for driving future nano devices like pumps, valves and levers.
Wiebe van der Veen | alfa
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