The World’s Tiniest Motor is a Single Molecule
Scientists hope to eventually make tiny machines.
Summary: A single molecule has been used to create the smallest
electric motor ever devised, according to a report in Nature
Nanotechnology. The tiny motor could be used in both nanotechnology
and in medicine where tiny amounts of energy can be used efficiently.
This is the first rotor that can individually be driven by an electric
current. "People have found before that they can make motors driven
by light or by chemical reactions, but the issue there is that you're
driving billions of them at a time - every single motor in your beaker,"
said Charles Sykes, a chemist at Tufts University. He is excited that the
electrical method allows scientists to watch the motion of just one
The molecule, a molecule of butyl methyl sulfide, is placed on a copper
surface where its single sulfur atom acts as a pivot. A scanning
microscope having a tip just an atom or two across is used to both
funnel an electrical charge into the motor and to take pictures of the
spinning molecule. Although the motor spins in both directions, as high
as 120 revolutions per second, it has an average rotation in a single
By modifying the molecule slightly, it could be used to generate
microwave radiation into nanoelectromechanical systems, Dr. Sykes
said. He said the next step is to link the molecules together in order to
make miniature cog-wheels and to do work that can be measured.
Besides helping to form the world’s tiniest machines, the molecules
could also be used in medicine — for example, in the delivery of drugs
to targeted locations.
Dr. Sykes and his team have contacted the Guinness Book of World
Records to have their motor certified as the smallest ever.
(Thanks to Brent Nemmers for suggesting this story.)
To read the entire article, click on BBC NEWS.
Comment: One must be amazed at the ingenuity of these scientists to
have figured out how to use a molecule, which is the smallest physical
unit of an element or compound, to do the work of a motor. We can only
imagine how useful this discovery can be if and when it is developed to
the point where it becomes an important tool.
Design has become an often-used word in science these days. In this
case, the scientists had to design the apparatus that made it possible to
get the molecule to do its spinning and its work. More planning and
designing lie in the future if this discovery is to lead to machines and
other uses of practical value.
We also shouldn’t forget the design of the molecule and the One who
designed it. The BBC article has a link to a stunning photograph of a
hydrogen molecule. As can be seen, a molecule is not just a blob of
something or other, but it has a definite structure which allows it to
function with a definite purpose in mind. But we learned this in
chemistry class, didn’t we?
As time goes by, we are appreciating more and more the incredible
evidence for design in the scientific world. Ernst Haeckel, who lived
from 1834 to 1919 and promoted Darwin’s ideas in Germany, reportedly
called the biological cell a “simple lump of albuminous combination of
carbon.” Now we know the cell instead is comparable to a little factory.
Some people choose to believe that all the evidence for design is just
illusionary, but that belief is getting harder and harder to justify as we
learn more about the complexity of nature.
The God who designed something as large as the universe and as
small as a molecule and atom has also designed a plan of salvation for
us. That plan involves repenting of our sins and then coming to Jesus in
faith for full and free forgiveness, an act that brings with it the promise of
eternal life in heaven. “Come to me, all you who are weary and
burdened, and I will give you rest“ (Matthew 11:28).
LSI Blog - Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011