For more than two decades, nonscientists and engineers have made molecular-scale motor, switches, propellers, ratchets, and even the "nanocar" above that rolls when its metal "road" is heated. But what can we actually do with these things? The journal Nature looks at today's efforts to develop useful applications for molecular machines, from drug delivery systems inside the body to a new kind of high-density molecular memory for computers.
“We've made 50 or 60 different motors,” says Ben Feringa, a chemist at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. “I'm less interested in making another motor than actually using it.”
That message was heard clearly in June, when one of the influential US Gordon conferences focused for the first time on molecular machines and their potential applications, a clear sign that the field has come of age, says the meeting's organizer, chemist Rafal Klajn of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. “In 15 years' time,” says Leigh, “I think they will be seen as a core part of chemistry and materials design.”
Getting there will not be easy. Researchers must learn how to make billions of molecular machines work in concert to produce measurable macroscopic effects such as changing the shape of a material so that it acts as an artificial muscle. They must also make the machines easier to control, and ensure that they can carry out countless operations without breaking.
"The tiniest Lego: a tale of nanoscale motors, rotors, switches and pumps"
Just for kicks, Paul Rule, 66, participated in a study launched by the Cambridge Natural History Society that enlisted citizen scientists and nature-lovers to help deepen knowledge of the flora and fauna in Cambridge, England. Rule recorded nearly 600 different animal species in his “ordinary” city garden, including an elephant moth like the one seen […]
Astronaut David Scott re-created, in 1971 during the Apollo 15 mission, Galileo’s “falling bodies” experiment by dropping a hammer and feather on the moon at the same time. Simply, both fell at the same rate because there was no air resistance. screengrab via Wonders of Physics/YouTube (Digg)
“Test counts inflated, death tolls deflated, metrics shifted.”
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Entrepreneurs looking for new avenues to reach customers may not have considered one of the fastest-growing content mediums today: podcasting. And we don’t mean just dropping an advertisement for your product or service in the middle of a popular show. Right now, there are about 850,000 active podcasts reaching 165 million Americans. Those listeners are […]