You’ll never get to sit in this car, and even a hummingbird couldn’t fit in it, but scientists in Switzerland and the Netherlands have been playing with nanotechnology to the max, developing a noiseless nano car that’s comprised of just one single molecule!
The noiseless, emission-free, four-wheel drive car, jointly developed by scientists at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and at Empa, epitomises the far-reaching possibilities of nanotechnology to reduce materials to the max. It’s also being termed the world’s smallest electric car.
According to its pioneers, the nano car consists of just a single molecule and travels on four electrically driven wheels in an almost straight line over a copper surface.
The film Honey I Shrunk The Kids comes to mind, especially as the molecular car measures about 4×2 nanometres.
Picture a VW Golf and then imagine a car about 1bn times smaller than that – there you have the nano car.
Nano-scale transport systems
The prototype also graces the front cover of the latest edition of Nature.
Nature has termed the molecular transport research a "decisive step on the road to artificial".
So how did they do it?
According to the two research teams, they "synthesised" a molecule from four rotating wheels, which can travel straight ahead in a controlled manner.
"To do this, our car needs neither rails nor petrol; it runs on electricity. It must be the smallest electric car in the world – and it even comes with four-wheel drive," said Empa researcher Karl-Heinz Ernst.
The downside of the car, said the scientists, is that it needs to be refuelled with electricity after every half revolution of the wheels – via the tip of a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM).
Also, due to its molecular design, the car’s wheels can only turn in one direction.
"In other words: there’s no reverse gear," said Ernst, who is also a professor at the University of Zurich.
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