Inventing the Nanomolecular Wheel

Science  07 Oct 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5745, pp. 63-64
DOI: 10.1126/science.1118765

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The wheel is considered the canonical invention leading to all manner of mechanical devices. Rotating machinery is also being investigated at the nanoscale as researchers attempt to create molecular analogs of wheels and motors. But will these devices be merely imitations of macroscopic machines? In his Perspective, Siegel discusses results reported in the same issue by Fletcher et al. in which a four-stroke chemical nanoengine is reported. By a series of bond-breaking and bond-forming steps, a molecular structure is caused to undergo directed rotation. The development of structures of this kind, which are not merely miniaturized macromachines, may lead to other devices for executing controlled oscillatory motion.