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For molecular motors to be exploited effectively, they need to be able to operate in unison. However, integrating billions of these nanometre-sized motors into a single system and getting them to operate in unison has proved to be quite a challenge. Organic chemists at the University of Groningen have now succeeded in integrating numerous unidirectional light-driven rotary motors into a metal-organic framework (a solid material with a 3-D cage-like structure). Details of their discovery were published on 18 March, in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Light-driven rotary molecular motors were first created by Ben Feringa, an organic chemist at the University of Groningen. Prof. Feringa and two others shared the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this discovery. Groups of various types of nanoscale molecular motors have been attached to surfaces and incorporated into gels, liquid crystals and muscle-like fibers where they can perform work on a macro scale, through cooperative action. However, the creation of an ordered array of these motors in a 3-D solid-state material has, until now, remained beyond our grasp.
Team - Scientists - University - Groningen - Ben
A team of scientists at the University of Groningen, led by Ben Feringa, Assistant Professor Sander Wezenberg, and Professor Wesley Browne, took up this challenge. They have now produced a working system containing 3 x 1020 (a three followed by 20 zeros) light-driven unidirectional rotary motors per cubic centimeter, which all run in unison.
The scientists housed the motors in metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), molecular cages made from metals with interconnecting 'struts' of organic molecules. Ordered 3-D stacks of these molecular cages form crystals. Once they had grown these crystals, the team replaced the vertical pillars with motor molecules, using a process known as solvent-assisted linker exchange. It was not possible to insert the motors at an earlier stage,...
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