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 molecule.
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 direction.
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.)
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).
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Some 169 creationist organizations with websites are listed for the USA, from 4th Day Alliance (CA) to X-Evolutionist (OK). Yes, LSI is listed. In contrast, the United Kingdom, home of Charles Darwin, has nine organizations listed.
Decades ago I attended a so-called Lutheran university where I could have lost my faith. The science professors promoted the theory of evolution and made fun of anybody who believed in the account of creation as presented in the book of Genesis. Thanks be to God, some creationist literature and the Bible soon helped get me back on the right track. Ever since then I have taken an active interest in the creation/evolution controversy.