Scientists from Rice University have developed single-molecule submarines that are composed of only 244 atoms, and they are propelled by light according to a research published Nano Letters, a journal of the American Chemical Society.
Don't Miss: iPhone 8: Everything You Need to Know
The 244-atom submersibles were developed at the Rice lab belonging to James Tour, a chemist, and ultraviolet light was used to power the motor of the submersibles. When the subs revolve, the propeller of the motor moves them forward by about 18 nanometers.
Since the motors are moving at a speed that is over one million RPM, what actually results is great speed. While it must be pointed out that the highest speed of the sub is less than 1 inch every second, this speed at a molecular state is very, very high.
Tour disclosed that the speeds achieved make the subs the fastest-moving molecules ever seen in solution. It is true that the subs cannot be steered at the moment, the findings show that molecular motors are very strong and able to move sub-10 nanometer subs in solutions of moving molecules of nearly the same size.
"This is akin to a person walking across a basketball court with 1,000 people throwing basketballs at him," Tour said.
It must be noted that Tour and his colleagues first developed nanocars about 10 years back, and these were single-motor cars that had four wheels, axles and free suspensions that would move on a surface.
"These motors are well-known and used for different things," said lead author and Rice graduate student Victor García-López. "But we were the first ones to propose they can be used to propel nanocars and now submersibles."
It is hoped that in the future, scientists from Rice would be able to create nanosubs that can carry cargoes for medical purposes among others. "There's a path forward," García-López said. "This is the first step, and we've proven the concept. Now we need to explore opportunities and potential applications."
This research was carried out by Rice alumnus Pinn-Tsong Chiang and postdoctoral researcher Gedeng Ruan; North Carolina State graduate student Fang Chen; Angel Martí, an associate professor of chemistry, of bioengineering and of materials science and nanoengineering, and Anatoly Kolomeisky, a professor of chemistry and of chemical and biomolecular engineering, both at Rice.
Don't Miss: The Best HDR TVs
The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Welch Foundation and North Carolina State.