Researchers at Tufts University have created the world's smallest electrical motor--a single molecule that accepts an electrical charge and rotates as fast as 120 revolutions per second. Previous research groups had shown an ability to get individual molecules to respond to stimulus from light or from chemicals, but the findings published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology are the first to show such reactions from electricity.
The findings could lead to breakthroughs in electrical circuitry, said the Future of Technology blog at MSNBC.com.
In their experiment, [researchers] used the tip of the microscope to send an electrical current through a simple molecule — butyl methyl sulfide, which gives brandy its distinctive smell — that was placed on a copper surface (orange in the image at right), which directs the molecule to rotate one way or another.
"We can spin the thing because we have the sharp needle supplying the electricity," he said. Left- and right-handed versions of the molecule spin clockwise and counterclockwise.
The BBC points to possible uses in medicine, including potentially "the controlled delivery of drugs to targeted locations."
But first things first for the Tufts researchers:
But for the moment, Dr Sykes and his team are in contact with the Guinness Book of World Records to have their motor certified as the smallest ever.