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Researchers run molecular machines on light

Posted: 10 Jun 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:nanotechnology? optical? optomechanical? polymer? molecular machine?

In a breakthrough suggesting that a new field of nanotechnology based on optical fields might emerge, researchers in Munich, Germany, have demonstrated the feasibility of operating molecular machines with light.

The researchers were able to perform complete mechanical cycles, demonstrating for the first time that optomechanical energy conversion is possible.

The optical machine was created by a research group at the Center for Nanoscience, Ludwig-Maximilians Universit?t. It was built with a specially prepared polymer made from photoactive chromophores called azobenzenes. Deposited on a microscope slide, the polymers were seen expanding and contracting under illumination. They performed mechanical work against an external force, using a process called single-molecule force spectroscopy, an adaptation of atomic-force microscopy. The molecule traveled 1.9nm.

Optical control and energy transfer carry several advantages for molecular-machine applications, including picosecond reaction times and simple, massively parallel addressability.

The technique will also make it easy to embed the molecular devices in a range of systems, from chemical systems to neutral gases or operation in a vacuum. The researchers aim next to build high-density systems.

? Chappell Brown

EE Times

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