Scientists design, control movements of molecular motor

Scientists design, control movements of molecular motor
This illustration shows the structure of the molecular motors designed by the international team of scientists. Credit: Saw-Wai Hla
(—An international team of scientists has taken the next step in creating nanoscale machines by designing a multi-component molecular motor that can be moved clockwise and counterclockwise.

Although researchers can rotate or switch individual molecules on and off, the new study is the first to create a stand-alone molecular motor that has multiple parts, said Saw-Wai Hla, an Ohio University professor of physics and astronomy who led the study with Christian Joachim of A*Star in Singapore and CEMES/CNRS in France and Gwenael Rapenne of CEMES/CNRS.

It's an essential step in creating —quantum machines that operate on different than classical machines—that scientists envision could be used for everything from powering quantum computers to sweeping away blood clots in arteries.

In the study, published in Nature Nanotechnology, the scientists demonstrated that they could control the motion of the motor with energy generated by electrons from a tip. The motor is about 2 nanometers in length and 1 nanometer high and was constructed on a gold .

At a temperature of minus 315 degrees Fahrenheit, the motor could move independently through thermal excitation. When scientists cooled the sample to minus 450 degrees, the motor stopped rotating. The researchers selectively applied electron energy to different parts of the motor to prompt it to move clockwise and counterclockwise.

Scientists design, control movements of molecular motor
These images, taken with a scanning tunneling microscope, show the molecular motor as it rotates at minus 315 degrees Fahrenheit (top), and stepwise rotations by tunneling electrons at minus 450 degrees (a - h) (bottom image sequence). Credit: Saw-Wai Hla
"If we want to build an actual device based on this motor, we would install electrodes on the surface to create an energy source," Hla said. To construct the molecular motor, the scientific team designed a stationary base of atoms that is connected to an upper moving part by one atom of ruthenium, which serves as the "ball bearing." The upper piece of the motor features five arms made of . The researchers made one arm shorter than the others to be able to track the motion of the machine. The entire device is held upright by using sulfur as an "atomic glue" to secure the motor to the gold surface, Hla explained.

The scientists now plan to use this model to build more complex machines with components that could be automated, Hla said.

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Journal information: Nature Nanotechnology

Provided by Ohio University
Citation: Scientists design, control movements of molecular motor (2013, January 10) retrieved 27 May 2019 from
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Jan 10, 2013
OK, now that people are beginning to realize just how difficult it is to built and control things at such a small scale, it is time for evolutionists to meet reality.
ATP synthase is an essential component for most of life bearing organisms. Withtout it the organism would have no energy to perform ANY other process. ATP synthase also just happens to be the most efficient motor known. PLUS, it is driven not by electrons but by protons.
There is just no way for this astonishing nanoscale machine to have been assembled by purely random physical processes. The vibrational, torsional and chemical problems at that scale are just too great - exactly as the current designers have found out to their chagrin. ASk them why it is that they have to experiment at such low temperatures, then compare that to ATP synthase.
Have fun trying to explain the existence of this miraculous machine that exists by the billions at body temperature.

Jan 11, 2013
@kevin - mutation may be random, but natural selection is not random (and even mutation is no longer random because life has evolved to retain more mutations in less critical areas than in life-critical areas). So the evolution of ATP synthase (yes, enzymes and other proteins 'evolve' through mutations in their DNA templates) was driven by non-random selection as well as quasi-random mutation.

I see that you are still preaching non-science on a science web site. That is disrespectful! Your religion is none of my business, but if scientists don't preach science on your religious web sites, please return the favor and keep your non-science of off our site.

And I see that you are still using a computer, a device based on discoveries made by the same science methods that support evolution. That's hypocritical!

Most religious people are fine, as are most scientists.
So who died and made you a disrespectful hypocrite?

Jan 15, 2013
@kevin - Please note that you are using an old Creationist canard called the Argument from Incredulity which is basically a negative argument. There may or may not be a natural explanation at this moment for the existence of ATP synthase, but that is very much the case for many phenomena unexplained in the past which now can be answered with natural science. The eye, for example, was considered too complex for evolution to explain, but vision is now known to have quite an evolutionary past.

This type of god-of-the-gaps argument used by ID creationists needs to be sent to the dustbin in a hurry.

Jan 15, 2013
OK, now that people are beginning to realize just how difficult it is to built and control things at such a small scale, it is time for evolutionists to meet reality.

So if it's difficult to build means it's designed? Then who designed it? If you claim something is designed you must provide evidence for the designer & the mechanism he used, as a bare minimum. Otherwise it's just a belief, not science. Simply saying "it's complex or it looks like a man-made machine, so it's designed" is nonsense. That's what the "intelligent design" advocates foolishly do.

Do you know that the catalysis in ribosomes is carried out by RNA? This RNA is a 'ribozyme' and it's hypothesized that such ribozymes were the first genetic material to evolve, since RNA can both store genetic information $ perform catalysis. So one could imagine the very first ribosomes as nothing but RNA. It could have slowly associated with other proteins over several 100 million yrs to produce the current ribosome.

Jan 15, 2013

Here are scientific hypotheses for the evolution of ATP synthases:

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No "intelligent intervention" required.

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