Washington, May 27 : Researchers in Taiwan have developed a new type of "molecular brake" that could provide on-demand stopping power for futuristic nanomachines.
The brake, thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair, is powered by light and is the first capable of working at room temperature, according to the researchers.
In the new study, scientist Jye-Shane Yang and colleagues point out that the ability to control specific motions of small molecules or larger molecular structures is essential for the development of nanomachines.
Some of these machines may find use in delivering drugs or performing surgery deep inside the human body.
Although scientists have already built molecular motors, wheels, and gears for powering nanomachines, the development of a practical braking system remains a challenge, said the researchers.
Yang's group assembled a prototype molecular brake that resembles a tiny four-bladed wheel and contains light-sensitive molecules. The paddle-like structure spins freely when a nanomachine is in motion.
In laboratory studies, the scientists showed that exposing the structure to light changes its shape so that "blades" stop spinning, putting on the brakes.
Altering the wavelength of light exposure, according to scientists, can turn off the braking power.