A team of researchers from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands has created a molecular engine that runs on chemical energy. Half of the molecule makes complete turns relative to the other half.
According to statements by scientist Ben Feringa collected by Nanotechweb, “We have proof of principle of a rotary engine powered by chemical energy. Although it is an extremely primitive system, far from any biological engine, our discovery tells us that it is possible to build a useful rotary engine with chemical power ”.
The motor basically consists of a phenyl rotor that rotates around a single carbon-carbon bonding axis relative to a naphthyl stator. Scientists say that rotation is achieved through a mixture of chemical reactions and random thermal oscillation.
The molecular rotor rotates through four structurally distinct stations, driven by a different chemical reaction each time. The first and third steps of the rotation entail the breaking of the joint, while the second and fourth steps entail the creation of the joint. Each step leads to a ninety degree turn.
According to the researchers, a very delicate balance of chemical and stereochemical events is necessary. The combination of reactions, purifications, and the time required makes the molecular motor less practical than synthetic motors that run on light. The reaction time for a complete rotation of the engine was approximately 128 hours. But the important thing is that the research shows that the technique is possible.
The next step for scientists is to redesign the engine and chemistry to reduce the complexity of the current process that prevents its application. They want to reduce the number of chemical conversions required and streamline the process. However, they are convinced that with time and a lot of effort they will be able to power, move or transport something.