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Nat Mater. 2005 Sep;4(9):704-10. Epub 2005 Aug 28.

Macroscopic transport by synthetic molecular machines.

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School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh, UK.


Nature uses molecular motors and machines in virtually every significant biological process, but demonstrating that simpler artificial structures operating through the same gross mechanisms can be interfaced with-and perform physical tasks in-the macroscopic world represents a significant hurdle for molecular nanotechnology. Here we describe a wholly synthetic molecular system that converts an external energy source (light) into biased brownian motion to transport a macroscopic cargo and do measurable work. The millimetre-scale directional transport of a liquid on a surface is achieved by using the biased brownian motion of stimuli-responsive rotaxanes ('molecular shuttles') to expose or conceal fluoroalkane residues and thereby modify surface tension. The collective operation of a monolayer of the molecular shuttles is sufficient to power the movement of a microlitre droplet of diiodomethane up a twelve-degree incline.

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