Topological energy storage of work generated by nanomotors
Most macroscopic machines rely on wheels and gears. Yet, rigid gears are entirely impractical on the nano-scale. Here we propose a more useful method to couple any rotary engine to any other mechanical elements on the nano- and micro-scale. We argue that a rotary molecular motor attached to an entangled polymer energy storage unit, which together form what we call the “tanglotron” device, is a viable concept that can be experimentally implemented. We derive the torque–entanglement relationship for a tanglotron (its “equation of state”) and show that it can be understood by simple statistical mechanics arguments. We find that a typical entanglement at low packing density costs around 6kT. In the high entanglement regime, the free energy diverges logarithmically close to a maximal geometric packing density. We outline several promising applications of the tanglotron idea and conclude that the transmission, storage and back-conversion of topological entanglement energy are not only physically feasible but also practical for a number of reasons.