Tiny molecular machines make life possible. Spinning rotary motors generate the chemical fuel our cells need, miniature walkers carry nutrients, and minute construction crews build proteins. Now, chemists are getting in on the act by making even smaller and simpler versions of these biological machines.
In three studies, scientists report designing their own molecular pumps and rotary motors. The puny devices are not quite ready to make their real-world debut, but future versions could suck carbon dioxide from the air and harvest valuable metals from seawater. The new studies show it’s possible to get teams of motors all working in the same direction and concentrate target chemicals in a confined space, a feat biology uses to sustain work.
“These are very important steps toward useful real-life molecular machines,” says Ivan Aprahamian, a chemist at Dartmouth College who wasn’t involved with the studies.
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