How about these stats for an all-electric car:
  • Range: Six billionths of a meter.
  • Seating: Zero (like not even close to anything more).
  • Operating temperature: -266C (in a high vacuum).
  • Size: One molecule long/wide/tall.
Those are the figures for what we can safely say is the smallest electric "car" ever developed. Part thought experiment, part building block for something bigger, researchers lead by Tibor Kudernac at the University of Twente in the Netherlands have created a single molecule that can move down a copper road when given a bit of electricity.

The "car" is a sort of specially designed capital-I-shaped molecule with little branches at each tip that rotate when a current is applied from a "scanning tunnelling microscope" (so, yes, since the energy source is external, the miniscule range listed above could, theoretically, be extended). When the molecule gets powered by electrons, the "wheels" change shape, moving the molecule forward. You can see a video rendering of how this works after the jump. More important, and the reason this may someday be applicable to larger nano-tools, the BBC says that this experiment "seems to overcome the forces that often dominate at such tiny scales." Nature calls this the "limits of miniaturization," but we'll see if Smart thinks about building a Forzero off of this concept.



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