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What a ride! Researchers take molecules for a spin
Date:2/1/2011

"This is no cartoon. It's a real molecule, with all the interactions taking place correctly," said Anatoly Kolomeisky as he showed an animation of atoms twisting and turning about a central hub like a carnival ride gone mad.

Kolomeisky, a Rice University associate professor of chemistry, was offering a peek into a molecular midway where atoms dip, dive and soar according to a set of rules he is determined to decode.

Kolomeisky and Rice graduate student Alexey Akimov have taken a large step toward defining the behavior of these molecular whirligigs with a new paper in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Physical Chemistry C. Through molecular dynamics simulations, they defined the ground rules for the rotor motion of molecules attached to a gold surface.

It's an extension of their work on Rice's famed nanocars, developed primarily in the lab of James Tour, Rice's T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science, but for which Kolomeisky has also constructed molecular models.

Striking out in a different direction, the team has decoded several key characteristics of these tiny rotors, which could harbor clues to the ways in which molecular motors in human bodies work.

The motion they described is found everywhere in nature, Kolomeisky said. The most visible example is in the flagella of bacteria, which use a simple rotor motion to move. "When the flagella turn clockwise, the bacteria move forward. When they turn counterclockwise, they tumble." On an even smaller level, ATP-synthase, which is an enzyme important to the transfer of energy in the cells of all living things, exhibits similar rotor behavior -- a Nobel Prize-winning discovery.

Understanding how to build and control molecular rotors, especially in multiples, could lead to some interesting new materials in the continuing development of machines able
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Contact: David Ruth
druth@rice.edu
713-348-6327
Rice University
Source:Eurekalert

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