Step toward building nanomachine-based 'materials that today just sound like science fiction'

To tell what’s really going on, read the abstract, but here’s the BBC version:

Professor David Leigh, of the University of Edinburgh, said the demonstration was one of the first examples to show molecular machines integrating successfully with the macroscopic world…

The tiny machines that coat the surface are essentially rod-like structures with rings that, in their normal state, furiously jump up and down because of Brownian motion (the random movement of molecules caused by collisions with molecules around them). But when these structures are stimulated by ultra-violet light, a chemical reaction takes place and the rings all go to one end, changing the nature of the surface under the blob from a repulsive one to an attractive one…

Professor Leigh concedes the work is early proof-of-principle but he is bolstered by the knowledge that nature uses molecular machines to do all of its jobs. He believes it can only be a matter of time before we are tapping into that know-how.

“Mankind, despite all of our technology in the 21st century, we use molecular machines to do nothing,” he told the British Association’s Festival of Science here in Dublin, Ireland.

“The properties of every drug, every polymer and every catalyst are just based on their static or non-smart properties. When we learn to do the same as nature, you really will have materials that today just sound like science fiction.”

Professor Leigh’s group at Edinburgh published their work this week in the journal Nature Materials.

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