As science advances, technology shrinks. Without miniaturisation, high-performance laptops, compact smartphones or high-resolution endoscopes would not exist. Currently, scientists are turning their eyes to switches, rotors or motors comprised of only a few atoms, with the goal of building molecular machines.

The nano gear unit designed at FAU is not only the world’s smallest energy-powered gear wheel, but also the first that can also be actively controlled and driven. The researchers’ findings have recently been published in the journal Nature Chemistry.

Some important components used in molecular machines such as switches, rotors, forceps, robot arms or even motors already exist in the nanoscale. However, there were no gear wheels in the nanoscale, until now.

The gear wheel is an essential component of any machine, as it allows changes in direction and speed and enables movements to be connected to each other. Molecular counterparts also exist for...