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"The synthesis and testing of nanocars and other molecular machines is providing critical insight in our investigations of bottom-up molecular manufacturing," says James M. Tour, one of two lead researchers on the project. "We'd eventually like to move objects and do work in a controlled fashion on the molecular scale, and these vehicles are great test beds for that. They're helping us learn the ground rules."
According to this News Release ...
The nanocar consists of a chassis and axles made of well-defined organic groups with pivoting suspension and freely rotating axles. The wheels are buckyballs, spheres of pure carbon containing 60 atoms apiece. The entire car measures just 3-4 nanometers across, making it slightly wider than a strand of DNA. A human hair, by comparison, is about 80,000 nanometers in diameter…
"It's fairly easy to build nanoscale objects that slide around on a surface," Kelly said. "Proving that we were rolling—not slipping and sliding—was one of the most difficult parts of this project."
To do that, Kelly and graduate student Andrew Osgood measured the movement of the nanocars across a gold surface. At room temperature, strong electrical bonds hold the buckyball wheels tightly against the gold, but heating to about 200 degrees Celsius frees them to roll. To prove that the cars were rolling rather than sliding, Kelly and Osgood took STM images every minute and watched the cars progress. Because nanocars' axles are slightly longer than the wheelbase—the distance between axles—they could determine the way the cars were oriented and whether they moved perpendicular to the axles.
In addition, Kelly's team found a way to grab the cars with an STM probe tip and pull them. Tests showed it was easier to drag the cars in the direction of wheel rotation than it was to pull them sideways.
Synthesis of the nanocars also produced major challenges. Tour's research group spent almost eight years perfecting the techniques used to make them. Much of the delay involved finding a way to attach the buckyball wheels without destroying the rest of the car. Palladium was used as a catalyst in the formation of the axle and chassis, and buckyballs had a tendency to shut down the palladium reactions, so finding the right method to attach the wheels involved a good bit of trial and error.
In an October 2005 paper in the journal Nano Letters, researchers from Rice University described the synthesis and movement of nanocars. These single-molecule vehicles measure just 4x3 nanometers and have four buckyball wheels connected to four independently rotating axles and a organic chemical chassis. The Rice team found that the nanocars moved about on a metal surface by rolling of the wheels in a direction perpendicular to the axles, rather than sliding about like a car on ice. The research was conducted as a proof-of-concept for directional control of nanoscale transporters. Rice researchers Jim Tour and Kevin Kelly hope to build upon the work by designing nanotrucks, light-driven nanocars and other transports that can ferry atoms and molecules in non-living fabrication environments. The transporters will be akin to hemoglobin and other biological transport systems that move oxygen and other key materials in the machinery of living cells.
Copyright © 2005 Y. Shira/Rice University
Originally posted by craig732
Is that an actual picture of the nanocar, or an artist's rendering?
Originally posted by sardion2000
It's a rendering, the scales are waay to small to take a clear picture. It's 4 nanometers by 3 nanometers