Take a Look at the World’s Smallest Working Electric Motor

  • Share
  • Read Later

It’s a truism that technology is always shrinking and getting more compact. This, however, might be something else altogether.

Previously the world’s smallest electronic motor was a microscopic 200 nanometers across. Not bad, especially when you consider that the average human hair is only 60,000 nanometers wide.

(MORE: Can Humans Actually Sense the Earth’s Magnetic Field?)

But now a team of scientists from Tufts University has reportedly engineered a motor that’s a mere 1 nanometer across. Their findings, set to be published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, will be submitted to Guinness World Records as the smallest electric motor to date.

How’d they do it? The team found that by controlling the temperature surrounding the molecule they could actually control its rotation, and voilà! A bona fide, working motor.

“There has been significant progress in the construction of molecular motors powered by light and by chemical reactions, but this is the first time that electrically-driven molecular motors have been demonstrated, despite a few theoretical proposals,” says E. Charles H. Sykes, Ph.D., lead author of the study speaking with Science Daily. “We have been able to show that you can provide electricity to a single molecule and get it to do something that is not just random.”

The applications of such an motor could impact everything from medicine to computing to really, really tiny cars.

Here’s our official 3D Techland rendering of what we think the motor looks like:

Just so you know, that took me all morning.

[via Science Daily]

LIST: 20 Things You Didn’t Know About Einstein

Chris Gayomali is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @chrigz, on Facebook, or on Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.