This is an illustration of the world's smallest electric motor, just a billionth of a meter across. Tufts University chemists constructed the nanomotor from a single butyl methyl sulphide molecule on a sulphur atom rotor. From the BBC:
The tip of a scanning tunnelling microscope - a tiny pyramid with a point just an atom or two across - was used to funnel electrical charge into the motor, as well as to take images of the molecule as it spun. It spins in both directions, at a rate as high as 120 revolutions per second. But averaged over time, there is a net rotation in one direction. By modifying the molecule slightly, it could be used to generate microwave radiation or to couple into what are known as nano-electromechanical systems, Dr Sykes said. "The next thing to do is to get the thing to do work that we can measure - to couple it to other molecules, lining them up next to one another so they're like miniature cog-wheels, and then watch the rotation propagation down the chain," he said."Electric motor made from a single molecule"
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.