What is a Nanocar Race?

This is the smallest race in the world, held in Toulouse, France. In the race, nano-sized molecules, called nanocars, run from start to finish. In the nano-sized world, various phenomena occur that are different from the world in which we normally live. Therefore, racers challenge themselves to nanocar races while facing various difficulties.

What is a Nanocar?

It refers to a molecular machine made of 100 to 1000 atoms that runs under its own power.
Some run on wheels like a car, while others move forward with the power of flapping wings like a butterfly. Nanocars are made of molecules that ridiculously small, at 0.0000002mm (2nm), about one two-billionth the size of an actual car.

How do we control it?

The running mechanism depends on the nanocar molecule. However, the maneuverability (engine) is the same, it's the power of electricity. In the nanocar race, a device called a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) is used to run the nanocar molecules. An STM is a microscope that does not actually "look" at an object, as is the case with microscopes used in school science experiments (optical microscopes), but rather scans the entire object by placing a probe, which is attached instead to a lens, as close as possible to the object to be observed and precisely records its shape and properties. Electricity flows from the probe, and by observing how this electricity increases and decreases in accordance with the unevenness of the surface of the observed object, the shape and properties of the object can be determined.
Depending on the object to be observed and the environment, it may be possible to use the power of electricity flowing from the probe to move it. In the nanocar race, the power of this STM electricity is used to drive the nanocar.

Why are we racing?

The "molecular machine" technology, which uses electrical power and light to move molecules, has been developed by three European researchers since the 1980s, and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2016, bringing the subject into the limelight. Currently, most of the movements are still simple, such as rotating or lifting, but if molecules can be manipulated at will, it will open up a variety of next-generation technological possibilities. For example, molecular machines that precisely deliver drugs to lesions, realization of ultra-compact computers, and development of new materials with high functionality are expected to be applied in a variety of fields. The nanocar race is a stage for international competition to develop the technology to create and manipulate complex molecular machines.


The Nanocar Race II is scheduled to take place in March 2022.
MANA will participate as part of the NIMS-MANA team again. For the second race, there will be another team from Japan, Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST). With the emergence of a domestic rival to the NIMS-MANA team, things are getting even more exciting...

Event Outline

March 24 19:00 - March 25 19:00, 2022 [24 hours endurance race]
Toulouse, France @CEMES/CNRS (The French National Center for Scientific Research)
Racing Rules
*As of March 2022
  1. Remote control from Toulouse for all 8 teams around the world.
  2. Mechanical push using STM tip is prohibited.
  3. Change of molecule-vehicle is possible during the race.
  4. Weather conditions: LT-UHV.
  5. Molecule-vehicle should be ditinguished front and rear in its modeling.
The First Nano Car Race of 2017


Introduction of NIMS-MANA Team members





International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (WPI-MANA)

National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS)

1-1 Namiki Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-0044 JAPAN

+81-29-860-4709 mana-pr@nims.go.jp