Why did the molecule cross the road?

Every now and again, I discover something so utterly cool that I just can’t not write about it. This is 9,10-dithioanthracene. It’s a substituted polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon. And it can walk. I promise I’m not making this up.

Well, in fairness “walk” would be a more appropriate thing to say, though it does travel in a perfectly straight line. When the molecule is placed on a copper surface and heated, those thiol (-SH) groups start to rise and fall, alternating from side to side. The result is that they act as feet, mimicking the bipedal motion of human beings, and propelling the molecule along the surface!

In testing, this little molecule managed to take roughy 10000 unassisted steps in a straight line, without needing any guidance from rails or grooves. The fact that it always has one of it’s thiol feet on the ground stops it from stumbling off to one side or randomly changing direction.

They plan on using these little guys as components in molecular computers. Nanoscale abacuses or similar. Personally, I plan on creating an army of molecular minions! March! March, my pretties!! Wah-hahahah-hahahaaa!!

The paper (complete with some pretty micrograph images) is available here.

About Invader Xan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
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