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Molecular machines

Nanomotor rotates microscale objects

Naturevolume 440page163 (2006) | Download Citation


A molecular motor in a liquid-crystal film uses light to turn items thousands of times larger than itself.


Nanomachines of the future will require molecular-scale motors1,2,3,4,5,6 that can perform work and collectively induce controlled motion of much larger objects. We have designed a synthetic, light-driven molecular motor that is embedded in a liquid-crystal film and can rotate objects placed on the film that exceed the size of the motor molecule by a factor of 10,000. The changes in shape of the motor during the rotary steps cause a remarkable rotational reorganization of the liquid-crystal film and its surface relief, which ultimately causes the rotation of submillimetre-sized particles on the film.

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Author information


  1. Department of Organic and Molecular Inorganic Chemistry, Stratingh Institute, University of Groningen, Groningen, 9747 AG, The Netherlands

    • Rienk Eelkema
    • , Michael M. Pollard
    • , Javier Vicario
    • , Nathalie Katsonis
    •  & Ben L. Feringa
  2. Department of Polymer Technology, Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Eindhoven University of Technology, PO Box 513, Eindhoven, 5600 MB, The Netherlands

    • Blanca Serrano Ramon
    • , Cees W. M. Bastiaansen
    •  & Dirk J. Broer
  3. Department of Biomolecular Engineering, Philips Research Laboratories, High Tech Campus 4, Eindhoven, 5656 AE, The Netherlands

    • Dirk J. Broer


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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ben L. Feringa.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary video 1

    This video shows the rotational rearrangement of a liquid crystalline film doped with molecular motor 1, during irradiation with 365 nm light. The rotation is shown in real time. (QT 8022 kb)

  2. Supplementary video 2a

    This video shows the rotation of a glass rod on a liquid crystalline film doped with molecular motor 1, during irradiation with 365 nm light. This video was sped up eight times, to clarify the rotation movement of the object. (QT 3168 kb)

  3. Supplementary video 2b

    This video shows the same process as Supplementary Video 2a, in real time. (QT 8801 kb)

  4. Supplementary information

    (DOC 183 kb)

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