World's tiniest electric motor unveiled

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8 Jun 2011
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Washington: Chemists have created the world's tiniest electric motor, which is no bigger than a molecule.

The development may potentially pave the way for a new class of devices that could be used in applications ranging from medicine to engineering.

The electric motor, fabricated by a team from Tufts University, measures a mere one nanometre (nm) across, when the current world record is held by a 200 nm motor, the journal Nature Nanotechnology reports.

A single strand of human hair is about 60,000 nms wide, according to a Tufts University statement.

E. Charles H. Sykes, associate professor of chemistry at Tufts and senior study author, said: "There has been significant progress in the construction of molecular motors powered by light and by chemical reactions."

"But this is the first time that electrically-driven molecular motors have been demonstrated, despite a few theoretical proposals.

"We have been able to show that you can provide electricity to a single molecule and get it to do something that is not just random," added Sykes.

Sykes and his colleagues were able to control a molecular motor with electricity by using a state of the art, low-temperature scanning tunnelling microscope (LT-STM), one of about only 100 in the US.
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