A new nanocar that runs cool — at room temperature — has been demonstrated by the research group of Stephan Link, colleague of James Tour at Rice. Tour won Foresight’s Feynman Prize last year for his earlier nanocar work.
This press release describes several novel features of the latest work. In particular, the new cars are monitored by hooking fluorescent dye molecule “trailers” to them instead of using an STM:
“We thought, ‘We’re just going to take an image, and nothing’s going to happen,'” said Link of the team’s initial success in attaching fluorescent dye trailers to the nanocars. “We were worrying about how to build a temperature stage around it and how to heat it and how to make it move.
“To my surprise, my students came back and said, ‘They moved!'”
Sure enough, time-lapsed films monitoring an area 10-by-10 microns square showed the cars, which appear as fluorescing dots, zigging and zagging on a standard glass slide. Link said the cars moved an average 4.1 nanometers (or two nanocar lengths) per second.
“It took us another year to quantify it,” said Link, noting as key the development of a new tracking algorithm by Claytor that will be the subject of a future paper.
The simplest technique for finding moving nanocars was precisely the way astronomers find distant cosmic bodies: Look at a series of images, and the dots that move are winners. The ones that don’t are either fluorescing molecules sitting by themselves or nanocars stuck in park.
An ultimate goal of nanotechnology research, of course, is to build molecular systems that transport and manipulate individual molecules. There’s a long way to go, but even though they currently only wander aimlessly, these nanocars with their tetramethylrhodamine isothiocyanate “trailers” are a step in the right direction.
Hat tip to DailyTech