World’s smallest electric motor unveiled, made from a single molecule

By on Sep 5, 2011 in Science, United States Comments

The so-called world’s smallest electric motor has been developed and was noted to have been made from a single molecule, and measures only 1 nanometer across.

World’s smallest electric motor illustration
Illustration Credit: Sykes Laboratory

According to a report by Tufts University on its official website on Sunday, September 4, 2011, their team of chemists has developed the world’s first single molecule electric motor.

As noted in the report, the Guinness World Records world’s smallest electric motor measures about 200 nanometers. A single strand of human hair is about 60,000 nanometers wide.

Apparently, the report, which was also published at Nature Nanotechnology that day, revealed that the experiment was made possible using a low-temperature scanning tunneling microscope.

“The excitement is in the demonstration that you can provide electricity to a single molecule and get it to do something that’s not just random,” Research team leader Charles Sykes said on the report.

“A molecular motor powered by electricity has significant advantages over those other technologies.” Sykes added, who is also a Chemistry associate professor in Tufts University School of Arts and Sciences.

Sykes and his colleagues reportedly used the metal tip of the microscope to provide an electrical charge to a butyl methyl sulfide molecule placed on a copper surface.

As shown in the illustration, the orange represents the copper surface where the molecular motor was placed. The yellow ball is the molecule’s sulfur base, and the two arms are composed of hydrogen atoms and carbon.

Above the tip of the scanning tunneling microscope acts is the power source that uses electricity to direct the molecule to rotate in one direction or another.

Meanwhile, Charles Sykes was said to be submitting their project to Guinness World Records so it will formally be declared as the world’s smallest electric motor.

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