Rice University Makes Single-Molecule Light-Driven Nanosubmarines

Rice University Makes Single-Molecule Light-Driven Nanosubmarines image
November 27, 2015 | Source: Mike Williams, Rice University Public Affairs

Speedy single-molecule submersibles are a first.

Though they’re not quite ready for boarding a lá “Fantastic Voyage,” nanoscale submarines created at Rice University are proving themselves seaworthy.

Each of the single-molecule, 244-atom submersibles built in the Rice lab of chemist James Tour has a motor powered by ultraviolet light. With each full revolution, the motor’s tail-like propeller moves the sub forward 18 nanometers.

And with the motors running at more than a million RPM, that translates into speed. Though the sub’s top speed amounts to less than 1 inch per second, Tour said that’s a breakneck pace on the molecular scale.

“These are the fastest-moving molecules ever seen in solution,” he said.

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