The world’s first molecular robot – one that is capable of building molecules – has been developed by researchers part of the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. These robots could have applications in manufacturing and can also be adapted for medical uses. Researchers hope that their nanobot will help scientists engineer new drugs.
Molecular Robots to Open Path to Creating New Drugs
The robots, which measure one millionth of a millimeter across, are made using only 150 molecules of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen. According to David Leigh, the lead researcher of the project, the molecular robot receives commands in the form of chemical messages. The university’s claim that its nanorobot is the first in the world of its kind has yet to be independently verified.
Leigh describes the work of these robots as being similar to that of their much-larger counterparts in the automotive manufacturing plants. The nano-scale robots use their tiny robotic “arms” to position components and attach them to one another. However, in this case, the components are individual atoms. The development was the project of a team of scientists part of the School of Chemistry at the University of Manchester.
“This is just the start but we anticipate that within 10 to 20 years molecular robots will begin to be used to build molecules and materials on assembly lines in molecular factories,” states David A. Leigh.
A paper describing the project, written by Professor Leigh and others, became available in the journal Nature in September 2017. The article, titled “Stereodivergent synthesis with a programmable molecular machine,” begins by describing how biological mechanical machines work in nature.
Scientists hope that this first in the world advancement in nanotechnology will not only accelerate the discovery of new medicines but also improve science’s ability to discover these new drugs. Although the technology is recent and complex, it is based on well-understood principles of chemistry.
Similar chemical principles, on a macro scale, are already being used in the making of plastics and medicines. Chemical inputs are utilized to create the desired end products made of complex molecules from building blocks composed of simple molecules.
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