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Nanotechnology: What is It?

The world's smallest car has been made by creating a single molecule that has four projections, like paddles, which stick out of each of the four corners. Each of these paddles change shape when they absorb or lose an electron. Passing electrons across the molecule results in the paddles repeatedly gaining and loosing electrons, making them rotate and propelling the car forward.

"It is [an] electrical car [where] instead of the four wheels we have four motors. In real life the cars we [use] are on the scale of about 2m. What we have made is far smaller (about 0.000000005m), not visible by eye," explained co-author of the article, Dr Syuzanna Harutyunyan, of the University of Groningen.

The researchers are hoping to investigate whether these miniature cars might be capable of carrying cargo. Dr Harutyunyan explained that, if they are, the principles behind this tiny car could be used in future; "For instance, to construct miniaturised robots, transporters, to do targeted drug delivery and so on."

Dr Harutyunyan explained that the scientists were inspired by nature to create this tiny motorised molecule. Although they are not yet capable of making complex miniature machines similar to those found in nature, the creation of this tiny car brings scientists one step closer.

About the scientist: Dr Syuzanna Harutyunyan

What motivated you to become a scientist?

I always wanted to be a doctor to cure people. I was about 16 when I realised that you can do exactly the same thing if you create new, efficient medicines. That's when I came across to chemistry. During my years [studying] I have realised how powerful it is. As a chemist your main tools to work with are the molecules. And using just molecules you can be a cook, an architect, an engineer, a doctor. This makes the work of chemist-scientist not just important and useful but also highly amusing. Look, isn't it cool that we have made the smallest car in the world?