Scientists, in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, have researched the rotation of molecules on a fixed surface. They want to develop nanoscale-level rotor-based electricity generators and electric motors.
Until now, it has been fairly difficult to handle materials at this scale, with the constituent parts having the sizes of molecules. Rotating molecules have been proved to exist, but until now they haven’t been built to create rotating magnetic fields and do something useful.
The scientists anchored phtalocyanine molecules, that have a metallic center, to a gold metal surface. They assembled the molecules in large arrays. The anchor point was a single gold atom on top of the gold surface, and it was attached to a nitrogen atom of the phtalocyanine molecule, allowing it to rotate off-center.
Professor Werner Hofer, from the University of Liverpool, explains: “The difficulty in creating molecular rotors is that molecules need a fixed anchor point and will often react with the surface you want to fix them to. A gold surface interacts very weakly with molecules; it moreover provides regular anchor points to attach single molecules, which then line up in large and well ordered arrays.”
“The centre atoms, which are metallic, spin around the gold atoms creating an off-axis rotation. The beauty of phtalocyanines is that the centre can be functionalised with any metal atom; the research could then lead to the development of rotating magnetic fields at a very small scale.”
I don’t quite understand how these nano-motors will be acted upon, and how will the scientists gather the electricity they provide (perhaps through magnetic fields) to actually use them. If you know more about this discovery, please leave a comment below. The news seems so hot! Thanks!