Turning An Axel-Mounted Molecular Wheel

In the history of inventions, the wheel has been at the origin of major scientific and technological developments: from the creation of astronomical clocks or calculating machines to motor-drawn vehicles and other motor cars. At the molecular scale, the smallest at which a wheel can be created, it represents a major challenge for chemists and physicists. Since the end of the 1990s, chemists in the CEMES have been working on the design of molecular machines equipped with wheels. Step by step, they have studied this field in depth in collaboration with their colleagues at IBM in Zurich and then at the Free University of Berlin. After observing the random rotation of a flat molecular wheel in 1998, designing and synthesising a mono-molecular wheelbarrow in 2003 and then synthesising a molecular motor in 2005, they last year managed to operate the first molecular rack with a pinion of 1.2 nm in diameter.


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