The chemical structure of the Windmill is based on acetylbiphenyl (ABP)
The entire Windmill is an assembled structure of 4 ABP-molecules on the surface connected via hydrogen bonds (those bonds are a called weak bonds). The circle represents the chassis of our NanoCar. Voltage pulses are applied to the outer phenyl-rings (steering points) to drive the car in a chosen direction.
The NanoCar converts applied electrical energy into a motion1. By applying voltage pulses with the STM tip, the Windmill car is moved in a precise and controlled way. The four steering points allow the motion in exactly one of four possible directions. Furthermore, the Windmill structure can transport a load like a single atom or a small molecule, thus performing work2.
1 F. Moresco and coll., ACS Nano, 7, 191 (2013)
2 F. Moresco and coll., ACS Nano, 9, 8394 (2015)
The molecule is commercially available, but needs to form an assembled structure to become a NanoCar. The vehicle consists of four non-covalently bonded ABP-molecules connected via hydrogen bonds. To maximize the formation of the tetrameric assembled structures, one needs to tune the conditions for the sublimation of the molecule. These conditions are the coverage, the sample temperature and the molecular flow during sublimation.
The great advantage of our NanoCar is that we have four steering points on the molecular structure, so that we are able to precisely move it in four different directions. We can therefore easily drive curves. Another advantage is that, if by accident our molecular car is destroyed, we can repair the structure and continue the race.
We are happy to participate to such a unique race. At the moment we are training hard to be well prepared for the competition. We hope to be the fastest team, but may the best team win.
The investigation of motion with molecules and molecular mechanics is still in its infancy. After the race we will continue with the work we have started with the molecular car ABP and with other molecule machines and gears. Our aim is to contribute to the construction of molecular machinery molecule by molecule, which can be the first step for a molecular mechanical technology at the nanoscale.