Scientists working on next-gen nanocars

Nanomechanics at Rice University and the University of Houston are getting ready to rev their engines for the second international Nanocar Race.

What a ride! Researchers take molecules for a spin (w/ Video)

( -- Kolomeisky and Rice graduate student Alexey Akimov have taken a large step toward defining the behavior of these molecular whirligigs with a new paper in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Physical ...


The nanocar is a molecule designed in 2005 at Rice University by a group headed by Professor James Tour. Despite the name, the original nanocar does not contain a molecular motor, hence, it is not really a car. Rather, it was designed to answer the question of how fullerenes move about on metal surfaces; specifically, whether they roll or slide.

The molecule consists of an H-shaped 'chassis' with fullerene groups attached at the four corners to act as wheels.

When dispersed on a gold surface, the molecules attach themselves to the surface via their fullerene groups and are detected via scanning tunneling microscopy. One can deduce their orientation as the frame length is a little shorter than its width.

Upon heating the surface to 200 °C the molecules move forward and back as they roll on their fullerene "wheels". The nanocar is able to roll about because the fullerene wheel is fitted to the alkyne "axle" through a carbon-carbon single bond. The hydrogen on the neighboring carbon is no great obstacle to free rotation. When the temperature is high enough, the four carbon-carbon bonds rotate and the car rolls about. Occasionally the direction of movement changes as the molecule pivots. The rolling action was confirmed by Professor Kevin Kelly, also at Rice, by pulling the molecule with the tip of the STM microscope.

This text uses material from Wikipedia, licensed under CC BY-SA