Molecular machines: the magic of nanotechnology

Allison Stoddart of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s magazine Chemical Science interviews nanotechnology researcher David Leigh on the joy of molecular machines in a piece titled “The magic of chemistry”:

What motivated you to study molecular machines?

I worked in Fraser Stoddart’s group before he made any catenanes or rotaxanes. We made our first catenane about five years after Fraser did. I could see that there was nothing interesting about a catenane or a rotaxane in itself. The interesting thing about them is the possibility to control a well-defined, large-amplitude motion. That’s what you need to make a molecular machine. Nature uses controlled molecular motion for everything: photosynthesis, energy storage, the way that muscles move, the way that cells communicate, ion channels. In contrast, mankind, at the beginning of the 21st century, uses controlled molecular motion for nothing. When mankind learns how to control molecular motion, and use it to drive systems away from equilibrium in the way nature does, I am convinced that it will change completely how we design functional molecules and materials…

What advice would you give to a young researcher?

To have big ideas – don’t do routine work. Tackle big problems. Whatever field they choose they should try and make a big impact. Just because you only have a small group, doesn’t mean you can’t do great things. There is plenty of room at the top!

Great advice! Explore David Leigh’s website for further info such as this map of worldwide molecular machine-related research. —Christine

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