Researchers have developed a molecular robot that can assemble individual molecules into new substances with the help of a tiny gripping arm
Manchester (United Kingdom). Who in this message has to think of the replicator from the science fiction series Star Trek, is not wrong. Even though the technology is far from mature, its basic functionality is still strongly reminiscent of the model from the series.
Research leader of the project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council , is Professor David Leigh of the University of Manchester . He and his team have designed a molecular robot made up of only 150 atoms that can move individual molecules with a gripping arm and assemble them into more complex ones . Although the robot is about one billion times smaller than a grain of salt, it can still perform complex and important tasks, according to the researchers around Leigh.
Molecular robot offers many new possibilities
The researchers are convinced that molecular robots will become important and irreplaceable in the economy in the future. According to the researchers, this process technology offers completely new possibilities in the production of other machines, materials as well as new drugs and plastics.
Although high-purity artificial substances can also be produced chemically, the production by molecular robots works in a direct comparison but much more precisely and reduces not only the material requirements but also the energy requirements. This allows manufacturing costs to be lowered and at the same time the purity to be increased. In addition, this procedure offers the opportunity to develop completely new materials relatively quickly.
As the researchers write in the journal Nature , they assume that in 10 to 20 years molecular robots will work on a kind of assembly line and produce high-precision or extremely pure materials there. In order to realize this vision of the future, the researchers want to shrink further technology to molecular size. The now-developed Nana robot is just the beginning: “Our goal is to make machines as small as possible.”