According to the news from The University of Manchester Magazine, scientists of this university have created the world’s first ‘molecular robot’ that is capable of performing basic tasks including building other molecules. The robots operate by carrying out chemical reactions in special solutions which can then be controlled and programmed by scientists to perform the basic tasks. In the future such robots could be used for medical purposes, advanced manufacturing processes and even building molecular factories and assembly lines.
Professor David Leigh, who led the research at University’s School of Chemistry which had been published in Nature suggested that the tiny robots, which are a millionth of a millimeter in size, can be programmed to move and build molecular cargo, using a tiny robotic arm.
Each individual robot is capable of manipulating a single molecule and is made up of just 150 carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen atoms. To put that size into context, a pile of a billion of these robots would still only be the same size (volume/weight) as a few grains of salt.
Whilst building and operating such tiny machine is extremely complex, the techniques used by Professor Leigh’s team are based on simple chemical processes. Thus, the robots are assembled and operated using chemistry. And this is the science of how atoms and molecules react with each other and how larger molecules are constructed from smaller ones.
Once the nano-robots have been constructed, they are operated by scientists by adding chemical inputs which tell the robots when and what to do, just like a computer program.
In consequence, our molecular robot can be programmed to position and rivet components in different ways to build different products. The benefit of having machinery that is so small is it massively reduces demand for materials, can accelerate and improve drug discovery, dramatically reduce power requirements and rapidly increase the miniaturisation of other products. Therefore, the potential applications for molecular robots are extremely varied and exciting.