French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) will conduct the world’s first international nanocar or molecule-car race next month in Toulouse.
Built of a few hundred atoms, the nanocars will be powered by minute electrical pulses during the 36 hours of the race, in which they must navigate a racecourse made of gold atoms, and measuring a maximum of a 100 nanometers in length.
The vehicles will square off beneath the four tips of a unique microscope located at the CNRS’s Centre d’élaboration de matériaux et d’études structurales (CEMES) in Toulouse.
According to CNRS, the Nanocar Race is an international scientific experiment that will be conducted in real time, with the aim of testing the performance of molecule-machines and the scientific instruments used to control them.
The end goal is to use such molecular machinery – activated individually or in synchronized fashion – in the manufacture of common machines: atom-by-atom construction of electronic circuits, atom-by-atom deconstruction of industrial waste, and capture of energy.
The brainchild of CNRS senior researcher Christian Joachim (now the director of the race) and Gwénaël Rapenne, a Professor of chemistry at Université Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier, the race is actually a product of an experiment that began in 2013 as part of an overview of nano-machine research for a scientific journal.
The challenges facing researchers in the race will be so many steps forward in novel fields in chemistry and physics. In the process, each team will build up new skills, data, and know-how that will one day contribute to the development of surface chemistry, or in the new science of surfaces known as membrane science, which makes it possible to deposit a molecule-machine on the surface of a cell, or to control the movement of a single molecule in a liquid.
The CEMES-CNRS microscope is the only one in the world allowing four different experimenters to work on the same surface. The development of such multi-tip microscopes will enable synchronizing a great number of molecule-machines in order to increase capacity, for instance for storing energy or capturing it from a hot metallic surface.
Image, source and content: CNRS