This smart-looking image is a model of what James M. Tour at Rice University (Texas) and his research team like to call a ‘nanocar’. The clustered molecules can roll around on a glass slide at about nine nanomiles per hour, and its wheels actually turn. The nanocar is no more than 4 nanometers across, which is slightly wider than a strand of DNA. Nanovehicles like these are designed to study the materials and movements, to make it easier for researchers to build more sophisticated molecular machines. Eventually the researchers want to build tiny trucks that could carry atoms and molecules around in miniature factories.
So in the future, we could have tiny ambulances racing through our veins instead of antibiotics.
One of the minor details that need to be solved: At room temperature, strong electrical bonds hold the buckyball wheels tightly against the gold, but heating to about 200 degrees Celsius frees them to roll.