MEDFORD, Mass., Sept. 6 (UPI) -- The world's first electric motor consisting of a single molecule has been developed, pointing to advancements in medicine and engineering, U.S. scientists say.
Chemists at Tufts University's School of Arts and Sciences say their electric motor measures a mere 1 nanometer across, while a single strand of human hair is about 60,000 nanometers wide.
"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," E. Charles H. Sykes, associate professor of chemistry, said in a university release Tuesday.
"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," he said.
The team used a scanning tunneling microscope to provide an electrical charge to a butyl methyl sulfide molecule that had been placed on a conductive copper surface.
By controlling the temperature of the molecule they could directly impact the rotation of the molecule, they said.
"Once we have a better grasp on the temperatures necessary to make these motors function, there could be real-world application in some sensing and medical devices which involve tiny pipes," Sykes said.
"Friction of the fluid against the pipe walls increases at these small scales, and covering the wall with motors could help drive fluids along," he said.