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 January 16, 2023

Now on the molecular scale: Electric motors

Tiny motor one day could drive innovations in materials science and medicine

Electric vehicles, powered by macroscopic electric motors, are increasingly prevalent on our streets and highways. These quiet and eco-friendly machines got their start nearly 200 years ago when physicists took the first tiny steps to bring electric motors into the world.

Now a multidisciplinary team led by Northwestern University has made an electric motor you can’t see with the naked eye: an electric motor on the molecular scale.

This early work — a motor that can convert electrical energy into unidirectional motion at the molecular level — has implications for materials science and particularly medicine, where the electric molecular motor could team up with biomolecular motors in the human body.

Only 2 nanometers wide, the molecular motor is the first to be produced en masse in abundance. The motor is easy to make, operates quickly and does not produce any waste products.

Only 2 nanometers wide, the molecular motor is the first to be produced en masse in abundance. The motor is easy to make, operates quickly and does not produce any waste products.

electric motors