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Programmable Miniaturized Robots Created Can Build Molecular Cargo

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Published on : Sep 21, 2017

Programmable molecular machines that can work at atomic level with desired precision is a far-fetched dream, possibly the ultimate in miniaturization of robotics. However, the goal of creating artificial molecular machines or molecular robots that will play a useful role in chemical synthesis and molecular manufacturing isn’t far behind. Researchers at the University of Manchester, England, aiming to achieve a milestone in programmable machinery miniaturization have created the first molecular robots that can perform basic tasks, including building molecular cargoes.

The artificial molecular machines are extremely small in size, a millionth of a millimeter, but can be guided by chemical input to move a largely unreactive substrate between different activating sites and help in chemical synthesis. The study is scheduled to be published in the journal Nature in September, 2017.

Nano-robots Assembled and Operated Using Simple Principles of Chemistry

Each molecular robot in the robotic system is made of only 150 atoms of nitrogen, hydrogen, and oxygen is able to manipulate a single molecule. These can be programmed to carry out special types of reactions, basically stereodivergent synthesis, in special media which can then be operated to selectively perform basic tasks as desired by scientists. Though the entire process may seem markedly complex, researchers opine that the technique used to program them is fairly simple, as in a computer program.  

The researchers have envisaged several exciting applications of such miniaturized robots: advanced drug discovery and next-generation manufacturing processes being just two of them. Down the line, these nano-robots will be building materials in assembly lines in molecular factories.

The research is led by David Alan Leigh, a renowned Professor at the University's School of Chemistry.

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