How hard can it be to make a wheel rotate in a machine? Very hard actually, when the wheel sits in one of those nano-small molecular machines that are predicted to be running our future machines. But before the molecular machines become part of our daily lives, researchers must be able to control them. A Danish/American research team have now solved part of this problem.
There are large machines and there are small machines - and then there are molecular machines. They are nano-tiny collections of molecular building blocks that together make up a machine and operate various processes at the cellular level. Biology is full of these natural molecular machines, and now science wants to create artificial ones that operate in the same way. If science succeeds, we can expect significantly smaller machines in our future everyday lives.
From biology we know the molecular machine, ATP synthase. It rotates, and in the process it converts the molecule ADP into ATP, which acts as an energy source for our cells.
"This is a classical biological molecular machine that you can use for inspiration when working with artificial molecular machines", says Sissel Stenbk Andersen, a postdoc at the Department of Physics and Chemistry, University of Southern Denmark.
"We ultimately want to create an artificial machine that can rotate and run a process. It sounds very low-tech and simple, but it is not. It is indeed a huge challenge to keep track of how the machine rotates and how quickly it does so - and if we want to benefit from molecular machines in the future, we must be able to control the rotation and the speed", says Sissel Stenbk Andersen.
Together with her colleagues she has now managed to find one of the accelerator pedals that control the speed of a molecular machine.
Together with Dr. Andrew I. Share from Department of Chemistry, Indiana University, USA, she is the lead author of an article on the subject in the Journ
|Contact: Birgitte Svennevig|
University of Southern Denmark