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Separate molecule1 is smallest electric engine ever

For the first time, an electric engine has been made from a single molecule1. At 1X10e-09 meter long, that makes the organic2 compound3 the smallest electric engine ever. Its agents putting into existence the idea to put forward their design to Guinness World records, but the small engine could also have good uses, such as pushing liquid (or gas) through narrow pipes in "lab-on-a-chip" apparatus.

Molecules1 have previously converted energy from light and chemical reactions into directed motion like rolling or moving up and down. Electrics has also set an oxygen molecule1 turning as by chance. But controlled, electrics-driven motion – necessary for an idea to be ordered as a engine – had not yet been observed in a single molecule1.

To house this, E. Charles Sykes at Tufts University in Boston and persons having like-position turned to asymmetric4 butyl5 methyl6 sulphide7, a sulphur8 atom with a chain of four carbons on one side and a only one carbon atom on the other. They fixed the molecule1 to a copper plane via the sulphur8 atom, producing a uneven, horizontal "propeller9" that is free to go round about the upright copper-sulphur8 join (see outline). Over the molecule1 they placed a metal needle a few molecules1 wide at its endbit. When they came in great numbers a current from this endbit, through the molecule1, to the conductive copper under, the molecule1 converted the electrics energy into rotational10 energy. It bounced around in condition of shaking dances about 50 times a second.

Because the propeller9 is asymmetrical11, there are two ways it can be adjusted with respect to the copper. In one make adjustment – but not the other – the molecule1's dances were not random but slightly had a tendency in a certain direction in the direction of rotating going round left to right, allowing the researchers to put it in order as an engine.

It is not clear why the tendency in a certain direction takes place but Sykes suspects that a natural asymmetry12 in the endbit of the metal needle could give an account of why it only takes place in one molecule1 adjustment. If accepted by Guinness, the engine will be a record smasher. The current world-record keeper for the smallest electric engine is an over-size man by comparison, composed of two 200x10e-09 metre long black nanotubes13. Current running through these nanotubes13 pushes drops of made-liquid by heat metal from the outside of one pipe to the other. Sykes hopes to get ready his very small engine to fight the rubbing that slows liquid (or gas) moving liquid in nanosized pipes. Kevin Kelly of Rice University in Houston, Texas, who was not involved in the work, points out that if electrics energy move across does differently depending on the form of the molecules1, this could have follow-ups for the design of molecule1-scale electrics circuits14, which could be used in very small sensors or computer bits.

molecule  The smallest unit making up a chemical ELEMENT or COMPOUND which has the same properties as the substance in the mass, and has the power of independent existence, a structure of two or more ATOMS.   Go back

organic  To do with organic chemistry.   Go back

compound  A compound thing, sp. a CHEMICAL COMPOUND.   Go back

asymmetric  Having no SYMMETRY.   Go back

butyl  The OPEN-CHAIN ALKYL RADICAL C4H9, got from BUTANE.   Go back

methyl  Having or being the group -CH3; used in naming different SYNTHETIC substances, sp. DYES (as methyl blue, methyl green, methyl violet) having a chemical relation with methyl.   Go back

sulphide  A substance formed by uniting one ELEMENT or group with S a SALT of H2S (hydrogen sulphide or hydrosulphuric acid).   Go back

sulphur  Chemical ELEMENT, 16 at.wt. 32.06, sign S, a non-metal having more than one form, commonly a light-yellow powder burning with a blue flame widely present in the earth, free or united, necessary to living things, and having a very wide range of uses, for example in making sulphuric acid, matches, DYES, INSECTICIDES, FERTILIZERS, and VULCANIZED rubber, and for medical purposes. OPEN-CHAIN ALKYL RADICAL C4H9, got from BUTANE.   Go back

propeller  A bladed, turning structure by which an airplane or ship is forced forward, or any part of different form having the same purpose, as an AIRSCREW or SCREW PROPELLER.   Go back

10  rotational  To do with, produced by, based on, rotation.   Go back

11  asymmetrical  Having no SYMMETRY.   Go back

12  asymmetry  Having no SYMMETRY.   Go back

13  nanotubes  Made of pure C, these tubes are long and thin and 1-3 10E-09 metres in diameter. As a single MOLECULE, these are 100 times stronger than steel and only 1/6 of the weight. Some are good at conducting electricity and heat, depending on the arrangement, and some act as a SEMICONDUCTOR.   Go back

14  circuits  The way taken by an electric current, the CONDUCTOR or system of conductors through which it goes (see CLOSED CIRCUIT, OPEN CIRCUIT).   Go back