Tiny Tech #15: Nanocar Race

Today from the world of Tiny Tech:

How would you like to drive on a racetrack of solid gold or silver? Well, six teams of scientists recently did just that. However, it would take 100 of their racetracks, laid end-to-end, to equal the thickness of a piece of paper, and their racecars were a billion times smaller than a normal car. These ‘nanocars’ are a type of molecular machine, which was the topic of the 2016 Nobel Prize in chemistry.  

With cars this small, there’s no room for a fuel tank. Instead the nanocars were fueled with electrical energy supplied externally. Some of the nanocars had four wheels, others moved like a hovercraft, and one even moved like a caterpillar. Two winners were announced. On a silver racetrack, an American-Austrian nanocar traveled 1,000 nanometers (one tenth the size of a red blood cell) in 30 hours, while on gold a Swiss team’s nanocar traveled 133 nanometers in six hours.  Yes … these speeds are pretty slow, but you have to crawl before you can run.

Molecular machines may someday be used in medicine or manufacturing, but for now, these nanocars are definitely on the right track! 

Tiny Tech is made possible by the National Science Foundation and WUFT.  To learn more about Tiny Tech, go to tinytechradio.org.

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