From Molecular Machines to Microscale Motility of Objects: Application as “Smart Materials”, Sensors, and Nanodevices



Machinelike operations are common functions in biological systems, and substantial recent research efforts are directed to mimic such processes at the molecular or nanoscale dimensions. The present Feature Article presents three complementary approaches to design machinelike operations: by the signal-triggered mechanical shuttling of molecular components; by the signal-triggering of chemical processes on surfaces, resulting in mechanical motion of micro/nanoscale objects; and by the fuel-triggered motility of biomolecule–metal nanowire hybrid systems. The shuttling of molecular components on molecular wires assembled on surfaces in semirotaxane configurations using electrical or optical triggering signals is described. The control of the hydrophilic/hydrophobic surface properties through molecular shuttling or by molecular bending/stretching processes is presented. Stress generated on microelements, such as cantilevers, results in the mechanical deflection of the cantilever. The deposition of a redox-active polyaniline film on a cantilever allows the reversible electrochemically induced deflection and retraction of the cantilever by the electrochemical oxidation or reduction of the polymer film, respectively. A micro-robot consisting of the polypyrrole (PPy) polymer deposited on a multi-addressable configuration of electrodes is described. Au magnetic core/shell nanoparticles are incorporated into a polyaniline film, and the conductivity of the composite polymer is controlled by an external magnet. Finally, the synthesis of a hybrid nanostructure consisting of two actin filaments tethered to the two ends of a Au nanowire is described. The adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-fueled motility of the hybrid nanostructure on a myosin monolayer associated with a solid support is demonstrated.