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.