Quite possibly the smallest vehicle invented so far has been unveiled by teams in the U.S. and Italy. Building on the nanocars invented in the U.S. last year, researchers at UCLA and at the University of Bologna have invented a nano-size vehicle that runs on solar power.
The motor is a rotaxane, an abacus-like device that has the ring serving as a “foot” and the vehicle itself moving between two barbell-like stoppers, propelling itself forward, although in an unconventional and admittedly jerky way.
“The kind of nanotechnology that will emerge from these nano motors still requires a lot of fundamental work. The nano motors are extremely sophisticated in their design,” Fraser Stoddart, UCLA’s Fred Kavli chair of NanoSystems Sciences and director of the institute, said in a statement.
Technically, electron harvesting powers the vehicle. One stopper will harvest an electron from sunlight. The ring is then pulled toward that electron. A full cycle of this takes less than a thousandth of a second. The frequency of movement, then, researchers say, is 1,000 Hertz.