Letter abstract

Nature Materials 6, 30 - 33 (2007)
Published online: 10 December 2006 | doi:10.1038/nmat1802

A rack-and-pinion device at the molecular scale

Franco Chiaravalloti1, Leo Gross1, Karl-Heinz Rieder1, Sladjana M. Stojkovic2, André Gourdon2, Christian Joachim2 & Francesca Moresco1


Molecular machines, and in particular molecular motors with synthetic molecular structures and fuelled by external light, voltage or chemical conversions, have recently been reported1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Most of these experiments are carried out in solution with a large ensemble of molecules and without access to one molecule at a time, a key point for future use of single molecular machines with an atomic scale precision. Therefore, to experiment on a single molecule-machine, this molecule has to be adsorbed on a surface, imaged and manipulated with the tip of a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM)7, 8, 9, 10. A few experiments of this type have described molecular mechanisms in which a rotational movement of a single molecule is involved. However, until now, only uncontrolled rotations11, 12, 13 or indirect signatures14, 15 of a rotation have been reported. In this work, we present a molecular rack-and-pinion device for which an STM tip drives a single pinion molecule at low temperature. The pinion is a 1.8-nm-diameter molecule functioning as a six-toothed wheel interlocked at the edge of a self-assembled molecular island acting as a rack. We monitor the rotation of the pinion molecule tooth by tooth along the rack by a chemical tag attached to one of its cogs.

  1. Institut für Experimentalphysik, Freie Universität Berlin, Arnimallee 14, D-14195 Berlin, Germany
  2. CEMES-CNRS, 29 rue J. Marvig, PO Box 4347, F-31055 Toulouse Cedex, France

Correspondence to: Christian Joachim2 e-mail: joachim@cemes.fr


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