Nano-cars Race

Nanocars Race

The teams

Swiss Team

  • Name of the nanocarSwiss Nano Dragster
  • LaboratoryNanolino Lab
  • Affiliate University of Basel (Swiss)

The group

Rémy Pawlak Scientist at the University of Basel
Team leader and pilot
Tobias Meier PhD student
Co-pilot
Catherine Housecroft Professor at the University of Basel
Molecule designer
Ernst Meyer Professor at the University of Basel
Project and team leader

Team´s sponsor

The Swiss Nano Dragster technical specifications

The chemical name of the Swiss Nano Dragster is 4'-(4-Tolyl)-2,2':6',2''-terpyridine. The Swiss Nano Dragster has no wheels and should be rather considered as a hovercraft than a car. Indeed, the motion of the Swiss Nano Dragster is in principle almost friction-less due the weak interactions between the carbon-based molecule structure and the race track.

The Swiss Nano Dragster is an electrical nano-vehicle propelled by electric pulses from the STM tip located at the motor position. The motor is located at the tail of the molecule (light blue on the figure) and consists in three steering units corresponding to each terpyridine groups. These steering units are activated by the experimentalist by flowing a current from the STM tip to the molecule location as depicted by the colored stars.

Synthesis of the Swiss Nano Dragster

The detail of the synthesis of the Swiss Nano Dragster is described in the following publication : E.C. Constable, C. Housecroft et al. When five are six: the myth of five-coordinate II) in supramolecular chemistry. CrystEngComm, 2010, 12, 3163-3171.

STM image of the Swiss Nano Dragster

Team leader’s interview

What is the strong point of your NanoCar ?

The Swiss Nano Dragster has a simple and robust molecular structure. As a consequence, we do not expect chemical decomposition of the vehicle upon electrical pulses and expect to run the whole race with a single car. The strong point of our molecule is its design to reduce the friction forces arising on the gold surface during displacements. Simply speaking, it is easy to move! But this has also drawbacks… Due to its weak adhesion on gold, the Swiss Nano Dragster can sometimes jump to the STM tip during pulses and disappear from the surface. This also means end of the race!

How did your team manage to achieve the synthesis ?

The synthesis of the molecule was conducted by the group of Prof. Catherine Housecroft. The original purpose of this compound is to form metal-molecule complexes potentially used in solar cell technologies. Indeed, the Housecroft group has an international experience in organic chemistry with the prospect to increase the sunlight-to-electrical-power conversion efficiencies of the dye-sensitized solar cell technology. We used their knowledges in organic chemistry to obtain a simple molecule which could be isolated molecules at the gold surface at room temperature as required for the Nanocar Race. In a way, the Swiss Nano Dragster is an electrical vehicle coming for solar-cell fundamental researches.

How do you feel about the race:

The synthesis of the molecule was conducted by the group of Prof. Catherine Housecroft. The original purpose of this compound is to form metal-molecule complexes potentially used in solar cell technologies. Indeed, the Housecroft group has an international experience in organic chemistry with the prospect to increase the sunlight-to-electrical-power conversion efficiencies of the dye-sensitized solar cell technology. We used their knowledges in organic chemistry to obtain a simple molecule which could be isolated molecules at the gold surface at room temperature as required for the Nanocar Race. In a way, the Swiss Nano Dragster is an electrical vehicle coming for solar-cell fundamental researches.

After the race, what are your research perspectives:

For many years, the group of Prof. E. Meyer is focused on studying single molecules at low temperature by combined STM and AFM techniques. Our research goals are to investigate and understand the interplay between structural, electronic and mechanical properties of those single molecules at surfaces to obtain fundamental insights into solar cell technologies as well as single-molecule electronics. Very recently, we tackle the friction properties of single-molecule manipulation experiments. These researches particularly motivated us to compete to the Nanocar Race. Our future works wish to develop original experiments to study single-molecules properties in general, with a particular attention to the optical properties. One could envision a photon-powered molecular machine for the next Nanocar Race!