Solid-state rotating molecular machines
July 15, 2012
University of Windsor researchers have shown that tiny interlocked molecules can function inside solid materials, providing a blueprint for future creation of solid-state molecular switches and molecular machines based on mechanically interlocked molecules, the researchers suggest.
“Until now, this has only ever been done in solution,” explained PhD student Nick Vukotic.
WDM-1, or University of Windsor Dynamic Material, a powdery substance that the team made, contains rotaxane molecules and binuclear copper centers. They found that heating these rotaxane molecules with a copper source formed a crystalline material that contained a structured arrangement of the rotaxane molecules, spaced out by the binuclear copper centers.
Heating the material causes the wheels to rapidly rotate around the axles, while cooling the material causes the wheels to stop, he said. The entire process was confirmed using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
The researchers suggest the molecules in solid materials could be manipulated in the future to form switches and machines. This could lead to future applications in computer storage, data transfer, or controlling electronic properties of materials at the molecular level.