Operation of micro and molecular machines: a new concept with its origins in interface science
A landmark accomplishment of nanotechnology would be successful fabrication of ultrasmall machines that can work like tweezers, motors, or even computing devices. Now we must consider how operation of micro- and molecular machines might be implemented for a wide range of applications. If these machines function only under limited conditions and/or require specialized apparatus then they are useless for practical applications. Therefore, it is important to carefully consider the access of functionality of the molecular or nanoscale systems by conventional stimuli at the macroscopic level. In this perspective, we will outline the position of micro- and molecular machines in current science and technology. Most of these machines are operated by light irradiation, application of electrical or magnetic fields, chemical reactions, and thermal fluctuations, which cannot always be applied in remote machine operation. We also propose strategies for molecular machine operation using the most conventional of stimuli, that of macroscopic mechanical force, achieved through mechanical operation of molecular machines located at an air–water interface. The crucial roles of the characteristics of an interfacial environment, i.e. connection between macroscopic dimension and nanoscopic function, and contact of media with different dielectric natures, are also described.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Materials innovation through interfacial physics and chemistry