Researchers at the University of Twente’s research institute constructing molecular machine capable of exerting a measurable force at nanoscale and in fluid environment.
The design of these machines based on self-assembling supramolecular tubules. Which can accumulate and store energy from light and convert it into a mechanical work. The tubules inspire by the bio-molecular structures that transport molecular cargo in cells.
Molecular machines, nano-sized devices that convert energy into movement. It is a relatively new research field, but in nature molecular machines are found everywhere. For instance, they are responsible for muscle contraction, locomotion in sperm cells and bacteria, cell division, and DNA replication within the cell nucleus.
Synthetic Molecular Machines
Because of their extremely small scale, and the fact that most artificial molecular machines can only function when suspended in a liquid, it is generally impossible to harvest the force they can exert as they operate in a ‘stormy’ environment with the omnipresent (ubiquitous) Brownian motion (random motion of particles suspended in a fluid). Nevertheless, making these forces measurable exactly what need to put them to use.
Tibor Kudernac, University of Twente researcher and former colleague of Ben Feringa, therefore set himself the goal of developing synthetic molecular machines whose power could measure and set to use.
To achieve this, he directed himself towards supramolecular chemistry, and self-assembly. Kudernac and his co-researchers have developed chemical building blocks that naturally cluster together to form tubules, tube-like structures up to a micrometer long and few nanometers wide.
When these tubules illuminated with light, mechanical strain accumulate in their structure until a threshold value exceeded. And the structure abruptly falls apart, releasing the energy. In this way, the researchers succeeded in converting light energy into a stored strain energy that subsequently fuels the specific mechanical response.
More information: [PNAS]