Last year, a team of chemists led by Ludwig Bartels of the University of California, Riverside, designed a molecule that can “walk” in a straight line across a flat surface. Now, they have devised a way for the walking molecule to pick up and release cargo. The molecule carrier is anthroquinone (C14H8O2), an organic compound used widely in industry to turn cellulose from wood into paper.
This film clip shows an anthroquinone molecule carrying two molecules of carbon dioxide across a copper surface:
According to Bartels, “this is an unprecedented step forward towards the realization of molecular-scale machinery…[which] will become as important to the molecular machinery of the future as trucks and conveyor belts are for factories of today.” In other words, the work takes us one step closer to molecular manufacturing.
Bartels and his colleagues now plan on designing a molecule that can turn corners and rotate its cargo or emit photons so that its position can be determined.