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Development of Methods for Manipulating Flexible Nanocars

—Overcoming Difficulties in Precisely Controlling the Conformation and Movement of Soft Molecular Vehicles—

National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS)

A NIMS research team leveraged its experience in developing molecular cars and representing Japan in the international Nanocar Race to succeed in precisely controlling the conformation and movement of easily deformable “soft molecules.”

(“Conformation Manipulation and Motion of a Double Paddle Molecule on an Au(111) Surface.” Soe WH, Shirai Y, Durand C, Yonamine Y, Minami K, Bouju X, Kolmer M, Ariga K, Joachim C, Nakanishi W.; ACS Nano. 2017 Oct 24;11(10):10357-10365. doi:10.1021acsnano.7b05314)

Abstract

  1. A NIMS research team led by Senior Researcher Waka Nakanishi leveraged its experience in developing molecular cars and representing Japan in the international Nanocar Race to succeed in precisely controlling the conformation and movement of easily deformable “soft molecules.” These soft molecule techniques may be applicable to the development of more sophisticated molecular machines.
  2. The inventors of molecular machines won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Molecular machines—whose movement can be manipulated at the nanoscale by the application of external energy—are a potentially beneficial technology in the materials and medical fields. Two types of molecules have been found to be appropriate for use in molecular machines: “hard molecules” that are resistant to deformation and “soft molecules” that deform easily when energy is applied to them. Because it is difficult to simultaneously control both the conformation and movement of tiny molecules, researchers studying molecular manipulation generally choose hard molecules. However, precise control of the conformation and movement of soft, deformable molecules would enable a diverse array of molecular machines to be designed. Thus, in an effort to improve the techniques used to control molecular machines, the NIMS research team chose a soft molecule as its nanocar for competition in the Nanocar Race in April 2017. All of the other teams used hard molecules in the race.
  3. NIMS’ nanocar consisted of a soft molecule capable of repeatedly changing its conformation from a folded to an extended conformer in a solution. The team was able to change the shape of the nanocar into a bent form by precisely applying electrical energy to site ① (figure below) of the nanocar when it was placed on a metal surface. The team was then able to move the car 0.29 nm (nanometers) at a time in a specific direction by applying energy to site ②. These results indicate that the conformation and movement of soft molecules can be precisely controlled by applying energy to specific molecular sites.
  4. Further development of these soft molecule techniques and integration of soft molecules into molecular machine design may enable various functions to be added to molecular machines. Researchers are currently discussing the second Nanocar Race to encourage continued research on techniques for controlling molecular machines.
  5. This study was carried out by a joint research group led by Waka Nakanishi (Senior Researcher, International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (MANA), NIMS), Yasuhiro Shirai (Senior Researcher, Center for Green Research on Energy and Environmental Materials, NIMS), Katsuhiko Ariga (MANA, NIMS), We-Hyo Soe (Senior Researcher, French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS)) and Christian Joachim (Group Leader, CNRS). The study was published in the online edition of ACS Nano, an international scientific journal, on October 9, 2017, local time.

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Contacts

(Regarding this research)
Waka Nakanishi
Senior Researcher, Supermolecules Group,
International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (MANA),
National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS)
Tel: +81-29-860-4892
E-Mail: NAKANISHI.Waka=nims.go.jp
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Katsuhiko Ariga
Group Leader, Supermolecules Group,
International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (MANA),
National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS)
Tel: +81-29-860-4597
E-Mail: ARIGA.Katsuhiko=nims.go.jp
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(For general inquiries)
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National Institute for Materials Science
1-2-1 Sengen, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, 305-0047, Japan
Tel: +81-29-859-2026
Fax: +81-29-859-2017
E-Mail: pressrelease=ml.nims.go.jp
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