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Single-Molecule Submarine Built at Rice University Is Powered by UV Light

Image: Single-Molecule Submarine Built at Rice University Is Powered by UV Light
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By    |   Wednesday, 18 Nov 2015 12:55 PM

A single-molecule submarine has been built by a team at Texas' Rice University, and the teeny tiny submersible powered by ultraviolet light comprises the fastest moving molecules ever seen.

The 244-atom submarine, which was featured earlier this month in the American Chemical Society's journal Nano Letters, moves with a motor that operates like a propeller, similar to a bacterium's flagellum, the Rice University team led by chemist James Tour said in a statement.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Welch Foundation, and North Carolina State.

"With each full revolution, the motor's tail-like propeller moves the sub forward 18 nanometers," Rice's statement said. "And with the motors running at more than a million RPM, that translates into speed. Though the sub's top speed amounts to less than one inch per second, Tour said that's a breakneck pace on the molecular scale."

The statement compared the discovery to the 1966 Academy Award-winning movie "Fantastic Voyage," in which a crew and a submarine were reduced to microscopic size to help save a scientist who was nearly assassinated.

"These are the fastest-moving molecules ever seen in solution," Tour said in the Rice statement.

According to the website Semiconductor Engineering, the Rice University nano-sub's motor was created using a 20-step chemical process, and it completes each revolution in four steps. This technology proves that nano-subs can navigate through solutions.

"One of the challenges was arming the motors with the appropriate fluorophores for tracking without altering the fast rotation," Victor García-López, a Rice graduate student and the study's lead author, said in the university statement.

García-López said that Gufeng Wang at North Carolina State University helped his team at Rice measure how well the nano-subs moved and contributed to improving the sub's movements.

"There's a path forward," García-López said. "This is the first step, and we've proven the concept. Now we need to explore opportunities and potential applications."

Researchers at Rice said that the nano-subs could be used to deliver cargoes for medical and other purposes in the future.

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A single-molecule submarine has been built by a team at Texas' Rice University, and the teeny tiny submersible powered by ultraviolet light comprises the fastest moving molecules ever seen.
single molecule, submarine, ultraviolet, light
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2015-55-18
Wednesday, 18 Nov 2015 12:55 PM
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